by Paul S. Howard, MD, FACS
Every surgical specialty society spawns sub-specialty societies. It has always been that way. Subspecialty groups began their own societies when their specific issues, whether educational or otherwise, are not being met by the parent group. This was certainly true of the ASAPS. At the time of their origins, many leaders of the ASPRS could not even utter the words “aesthetic surgery” thought it a demeaning endeavor and offered few educational opportunities. The aesthetic surgeons had trouble getting adequately trained and were an embarrassing after thought in most training programs which was reflected in the ASPRS leadership.
The ASAPS was borne in this environment and was successful because it filled a void. Since then, the ASAPS slowly embraced aesthetic surgery and devoted to increasing educational opportunities thus creating what was to become a chasm between the two societies ultimately based in financial issues. The ASAPS was perceived to be more “exclusive” due to higher fees and a smaller membership devoted exclusively to the practice of aesthetic surgery.
Several years ago when the ASPRS dropped “Reconstructive” from its name it appeared that the society had become schizophrenic trying to appease the aesthetic surgeons at the expense of the historical primary of reconstructive plastic surgeons. From the outside looking in, it appears the ASPS is losing its identity in an awkward attempt to be all things to all people. It is assured that underlying the ASPS posture are financial considerations.
The leadership of the ASAPS are rightfully concerned that the ASPS intends on ending the “duplication” of services which it has created over the years by engulfing the smaller, more exclusive ASAPS into their 9000 member polyglot. Again, in a seemingly awkward attempt to fill the coffers, the ASPS has opened their meetings to non-plastic surgical physicians to enjoy the benefit of our training and expertise as co-called “guest” physicians. It seemed inevitable since we gave away our leadership in aesthetic surgery by giving ENTs, derms, ophthalmologist and whoever “core” physician status; a word and status that makes no intrinsic sense whatsoever.
There comes a time in all battles when there is no clear winner and both fighters should retreat into their respective corners as there simply cannot be a winner only losers. A good model for the ASPS is that of the American College of Surgeons where specialties are given a voice and a token amount of time at the national meetings. The ASPS needs to concentrate on the needs of their historical “core” membership and try not to damage our leadership in aesthetic surgery by training others to compete with us.