The SSM Health/ Saint Louis University Plastic Surgery Residency Program provides a complete plastic surgical experience, encompassing comprehensive reconstructive surgery and wound care, head and neck surgery, pediatric plastic surgery including craniofacial and maxillofacial cleft patient care, hand surgery, aesthetic surgery and breast surgery including microsurgical reconstruction.
There are no formal fellowship programs so residents get a greater direct operative experience with the attending surgeons. The program focuses on teaching the resident to be a teacher, ensuring mastery of the material and maximal learning and retention.
Our goal is not to train a resident for a fellowship but to provide them with all the necessary skills to be a competently practicing plastic surgeon. Having stated that, about half of our graduating chief residents go on to further fellowship training at top programs, while the other half feel they have mastered the needed skills to enter clinical practice.
SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital is the home base of the program. Experience here is primarily in the areas of facial and general trauma, reconstructive surgery of all types, and hand surgery. There are two major general plastic surgery/hand clinics every week at this campus and three others at other locations in the city.
- At Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, the resident gains experience in congenital disorders, clefts, burns, pediatric reconstructive surgery and hand surgery. There are two general plastic surgery clinics every week and a cleft palate/craniofacial clinic twice a month. Both hospitals have Level 1 Trauma Centers with a wide variety of trauma and hand surgery patients.
- The John Cochran Veterans Administration Medical Center provides experience in head and neck, hand, and reconstructive surgery as well as wound care. There is a general plastic surgery clinic once a week and a hand clinic every two weeks.
- At St. Mary's Health Center, most patients are private with problems in general reconstructive plastic surgery and aesthetic surgery. This setting provides the residents experience treating and processing patients in a private practice atmosphere.
- In addition, residents have a rotation at Mercy Hospital and gain further experience in the private setting as well as in resuscitation of acute burns and operative burn treatment at Mercy’s Burn Unit in addition to hand surgery and breast surgery, including microsurgical breast reconstruction. All of these hospitals are within a 14-mile radius and can be reached in less than 20 minutes of driving time.
The five hospital practice sites in the Saint Louis University Plastic Surgery training program allow residents to experience first-hand the various clinical practice settings they will ultimately face when they decide to go into practice: The academic model, the totally private practice model, the government hospital model, the hospital supported model and the hospital-owned practice model. The resident can appreciate the pros and cons of each system and better select the venue that he or she feels best suits their clinical practice life goals. Graduates have found this invaluable when making the final decisions regarding career path selection.
The supervision and degree of independent operative experience is carefully graduated to meet each resident's abilities, initiative and educational needs. The overriding concern in all operative activities is the quality of our service and the patient's safety. These are never compromised for the sake of independent operative experience by the residents. Excellence in patient care is a prerequisite to excellence in teaching and surgical education. As a Jesuit institution, we provide a great deal of compassionate charity care and the residents experience the gratification of having new abilities to help the less fortunate.
Educational Pillars of the Program
The plastic surgery residency program is structured along three major educational pillars:
- Patient care and service
Patient care is emphasized, including patient selection, preoperative planning, operative experience, and postoperative follow-up. The residents are provided with a rich, well-rounded experience in all aspects and categories of Plastic Surgery. Most hospitals in the program utilize the EPIC electronic medical records system.
- Surgical education
Formal didactic teaching includes the full spectrum of teaching conferences, including case presentations, seminars, reviews of selected readings, journal reviews, mortality and morbidity conferences, anatomy dissections and lectures on basic science topics related to plastic surgery. There are two 1 ½-hour sessions held on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings of each week. In addition, the In-Service examination is required of all our residents, a mock oral board examination is organized each year, and a microsurgical workshop is held each year.
Basic and clinical research is encouraged and each resident is expected to complete a project and hopefully submit it for publication/presentation each year. Funds are available to send residents to meetings when they present their research papers. A microsurgery laboratory is available for practice of microsurgical techniques and research and a large animal research facility in the medical school is also available for basic research support.