Cosmetic Surgery: An aesthetically challenging profession

Cosmetic surgery is a challenging and creative science which requires surgical skills, aesthetic sensibility, and an understanding of the human psyche since patients also require psychological counselling

In an age when good looks are becoming increasingly important for image building, you needn’t despair if you are less blessed with outward beauty. Cosmetic surgeons are becoming ubiquitous and ready, willing, and able to improve on God’s original plan and give you the face, nose, ears, the hair and even the sculpted body of your dreams. Hitherto the preserve of movie stars, glitterati, and the elite, during the past decade cosmetic surgery has become a viable option for middle-class men and women of all ages, shapes, and sizes who are treading an increasingly beaten path to cosmetic surgeons’ consulting rooms. This demand-led boom for cosmetic surgery has created lucrative career opportunities for trained cosmetic surgeons.

Cosmetic surgery is a challenging, responsible, and creative science which requires surgical skills, aesthetic sensibility, and an understanding of the human psyche, since patients also require psychological counselling. The two main specialisations in this field are reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. Reconstructive treatment focuses on correcting physical defects and abnormalities, while cosmetic surgeons work towards improving a client’s looks and enhancing her aesthetic appeal.  To practise as a cosmetic surgeon, it’s necessary to acquire the base MBBS degree (five and a half years), followed by a three-year Master of Surgery, or MD surgery/FRCS or equivalent study programme. Surgeons from various faculties — ENT, gynaecology etc — are eligible to opt for specialisation in cosmetic surgery after adequate training under qualified plastic surgeons for at least two years. Another option after MBBS is acquisition of certification of the Diploma National Board (DNB), which offers various specialisation options including plastic and cosmetic surgery.

For accreditation, surgeons usually target the Fellowship of International College of Cosmetic Surgery or enroll as members of the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India. To become a member of the latter, a surgeon must complete an approved residency of at least three years after graduating from medical school. She/he must then complete another three years of residency before writing exams of a recognised university.
In India, cosmetic surgeries are performed mostly in private clinics, specialist day care units, and nursing homes situated in metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore etc.

FINANCIALLY REWARDING. As a career, cosmetic surgery is not only satisfying but financially rewarding as well. Equipped with optimal qualifications and work experience, a cosmetic surgeon in private practice is likely to join the affluent society very quickly given that procedures such as liposuction, face lifts, hair transplants, abdominoplasty, and breast implants come at prices of Rs.25,000 onwards.

“In the past six years since I’ve been practising in Mumbai, there has been a 50 percent jump in the number of people opting for cosmetic surgery. Now even housewives are ringing in for appointments and more interestingly, there’s been a 50 percent increase in the number of male patients,” says Prof. Dr. Mohan Thomas, medical director of the Cosmetic Surgery Institute and founder president of the Asian Academy of Cosmetic Surgery and the Academy of  Anti-Ageing Medicine, Mumbai/New York, and honorary consultant of cosmetic plastic surgery at Mumbai’s upscale Breach Candy Hospital.

A certified cosmetic surgeon who has specialised in facial plastic surgery, Thomas has impressive academic credentials. With doctoral and post-doctoral degrees from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, he interned at Allegheny University, Philadelphia, and completed residences (facial plastic and maxillofacial surgery, and cosmetic surgery) at prestigious institutions such as Mount Sinai of New York University and Hahnemann University hospitals. A former professor of surgery at the Mount Sinai and a visiting scholar at the Mount Sinai Medical Centre, New York, Thomas returned to India in 2001 and established an enviable reputation in Mumbai as the country’s premier cosmetic surgeon.

“Satisfactory looks from a patient’s own perspective are very important as they determine a person’s self-confidence and career development. Moreover cosmetic surgery has also become very affordable with the average cost of many procedures dropping significantly even as technology has transformed facial plastic surgery,” opines Dr. Thomas, whose 20 years of experience in this field in the US and over 7,500 hours of continuing education have prompted him to train newcomers into this burgeoning profession.

Academic qualifications apart, the vital characteristics of a professional in this field are the “eye of an artist and the hand of a surgeon” and the prescience to visualise how a patient would look after operative procedures. “Without over-commitment or raising expectations of  patients, a cosmetic surgeon needs to spend time with them to reassure them about surgery and to gauge whether the client is ready for it. He must be honest and explain the concomitant hazards,” says Thomas.

According to him, cosmetic surgery has a great future in India. “My message to youth is, make a career of cosmetic surgery if you have the passion for it. It can make a qualitative difference to the lives of young, middle-aged, and elderly people. There’s a severe shortage of sufficiently qualified cosmetic surgeons — a shortage which will become acute unless a larger number of medical practitioners switch to this profession,” he says.

Once upon a time there used to be a trade off between beauty and brains. Now if you have the brains you can acquire beauty as well, thanks to cosmetic surgery.