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The introduction of plastic and reconstructive surgery to the University of Glasgow undergraduate medical core curriculum.
  1. Gillian Higgins1,2,
  2. Suzanne Emma Thomson1,2
  1. 1 Canniesburn Unit of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2 Centre for the Cellular Microenvironment, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Gillian Higgins, Canniesburn Unit of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Canniesburn Research Trust, Glasgow G40SE, UK; gillianhiggins{at}


Misperceptions of plastic surgery remain common among medical students and the medical community. This creates barriers in recruitment to specialty and patient referral. Before this study, there was no formal plastic surgery teaching in University of Glasgow undergraduate medical core curriculum. A plastic surgery teaching pilot was implemented for fourth year students. Oncoplastic breast surgery was used as an example of gold standard multidisciplinary reconstructive surgery. Surveys collected data before and after provision of teaching across four parameters; identification of plastic surgery subspecialties, understanding of plastic surgery, opinion of the pilot and curriculum, career preferences and gender. The response rate was 57% (n=160). The most and least recognised subspecialties were burns (48% (n=75)) and perineal and lower limb reconstruction (0% (n=0)), respectively, with more students identifying aesthetic surgery (16% (n=26)) than hand (9% (n=15)) or skin cancer surgery (6% (n=9)). The majority (129 (81%)) thought plastic surgery was poorly represented in their curriculum and wanted further information (98 (61%)). Reported understanding of plastic surgery significantly improved (p≤0.00005). Those interested in surgical careers increased from 39% (n=63) to 41% (n=66) with more males than females reporting interest (p≤0.05). This study introduced plastic and reconstructive surgery into the undergraduate curriculum and led to further increased plastic surgery teaching. It improved student understanding, desire to gain more experience in the specialty and interest in surgical careers. Teaching students about subspecialties is vital to dispel misconceptions, ensure appropriate referrals and ignite interest in those with aptitude for surgical careers.

  • medical education & training
  • plastic & reconstructive surgery

Statistics from


  • Presented at Presented at BAPRAS Scottish Breast Surgery Meeting, Dunkeld, Scotland, 2016.

  • Contributors The study concept was from SET. The teaching session design and liaison with University of Glasgow Wolfson Medical School was SET. The survey was designed and implemented by GH. The article was written by GH and edited by SET, with data processing and analysis from GH.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. Part of this work was undertakent whilst SET was working as MRC CRTF (MR/L017741/1).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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