Great News: Plastic Surgeons Use BOTH Sides of their Brain while Operating

Samantha Johnson

by Samantha Johnson | July 18, 2012 @ 12:00PM

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This may come as a surprise to some, but plastic surgeons actually have to use BOTH sides of their brain while they perform a surgical procedure.  After medical school, most plastic surgeons spend anywhere from 7 to 14 more years in training in order to become board-certified.  They learn about anatomy, physiology and all sorts of other scientific, or "left brained" stuff, but according to Dr. Michelle Copeland, the scientific paradigm is shifting more and more to the right.

"Twenty-five years ago, when I started my practice, there was one nose – and only one nose -- that plastic surgeons sculpted for a rhinoplasty,” Copeland said.  “Today, things are vastly improved.  Surgeons have become more educated in the subtleties of beauty -- real life, individual beauty – not the cookie-cutter perfection we associate with the oft-lifted, tucked, and bobbed. We've grown much better at 'sculpting' human beings.”

"Surgeons have become more educated in the subtleties of beauty -- real life, individual beauty – not cookie-cutter perfection ... We've grown much better at 'sculpting' human beings.”


No doubt this is a common conclusion that surgeons come to.  With every unique patient comes an equally unique set of challenges and opinions of what the end result should look like.  In the field of plastic surgery, “one-size-fits-all” just doesn't make sense.  Schools like The University of Lincoln are catching on to this new discovery by implementing classes that teach art from the plastic surgery perspective.  In the “Art of Reconstruction” class, students are required to draw the human face in quadrants and construct a human breast out of clay. Assignments like this help them view their work from the patient's perspective as well as their own, which can help them improve their technique.

Although Dr. Copeland was the first woman in the US to earn combined doctoral degrees in both medicine and dentistry from Harvard University - and has spent subsequent years since then continuing her education - she believes that what she has learned in the classroom is only part of what defines her job.  “If I'm a scientist first, then I must be an artist second,” she said. “To be a good plastic surgeon, it is not enough to possess know-how, manual dexterity, and framed diplomas that trumpet our qualifications.  We must also be imaginative, resourceful and respectful.”

As an artist, helping people imagine how their looks – and by extension, their lives – can improve is the most challenging and rewarding part of her daily routine.  When the surgery is over and the wounds have healed, a living, breathing canvass reflects her work.

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