Facial Plastic Surgeons as Artists?

One of the best parts of my job is that facial plastic surgery merges art with the science of medicine. During high school and college, I was very involved with music and theater. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have time for these passions during my medical training. Medical school emphasizes using logic and science to properly diagnose and treat disease; I missed the opportunity to use the other side of my brain. When I started studying facial plastic surgery, I was thrilled to have found a scientific discipline that allowed me to bring an artistic eye to the practice of medicine.

Art and medicine have long been closely related. The greatest artists and sculptors studied anatomy so that they might perfect their representations of the human form.

Close up of Old anatomy drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci. Used under license from Getty Images.


While medical training teaches you techniques for dealing with various problems, facial plastic surgeons are increasingly recognizing that training in sculpture helps you improve your judgement about how much is too much, how little is too little, and just what makes something beautiful.

Towards that end, I took a sculpture class that was held at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons in Dallas. The course was led by a professor of sculpture from the New York Art Students League and a facial surgeon who is also an accomplished sculptor. The idea was to work on bringing the artistic portions of our brains to surgery training.

The course began with an exercise where we were given a clay face without a nose. The exercise was to build a nose from scratch.

In the second exercise, we were given half of a face and a brick of clay. The job was to build the face’s other half!

Not great, but not bad for a first try…

What did I learn?

1) Facial surgery is easy. Sculpture is hard! It’s pretty easy to make something that looks fine, but it’s REALLY DIFFICULT to sculpt something that is beautiful.

2) One key is to look at faces from different angles; because of the face’s complex three-dimensional structure, what looks good from one angle may not look so good from another side.

3) A few millimeters one way or another can make a huge difference in the final result. Beauty really comes from attention to fine details.

While I may not be doing any more sculpture any time soon, these results will be on display in the office. Come by and check them out!

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