Strengthening the specialty as a whole

Gregory R.D. Evans, MD, and Charles Verheyden, MD, PhD
03/06/2013 at 10:00AM

During Plastic Surgery The Meeting in New Orleans, we had an opportunity to sit down with C. Scott Hultman, MD, the chief medical editor of Plastic Surgery News, and a diverse group of four ASPS members who asked us a wide range of questions on behalf of the membership. The purpose of this annual PSN Presidents Forum is to address issues of importance to members during the upcoming year for both ASPS and the Foundation.

One of the lines of inquiry focused on the relationship of ASPS with the numerous subspecialty societies that have arisen over the years. The example specifically mentioned was ASAPS - "How in these difficult economic times could ASPS and ASAPS continue to require their members to pay multiple dues and support the infrastructures for, what some believe, is a duplication of services of two societies?"

Historically, ASAPS was organized more than 40 years ago because of a then-perceived lack of interest and support for aesthetic surgery on the part of ASPS. Over the last decade, however, ASPS, along with ASAPS, have made enormous progress in the aesthetic arena. ASPS went so far as to change its name from the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons to reinforce the diversity of our membership and our commitment to represent the entire House of Plastic Surgery.

Beyond changing the Society's name, ASPS has substantially increased aesthetic educational programming, provided robust representation of plastic surgery's interests at the state and federal levels (e.g., the defeat of the Cosmetic Tax), restructured The Plastic Surgery Foundation to focus on translational and clinical research designed to address the most pressing and emerging areas impacting the entire specialty (e.g., VTE, fat grafting, and ALCL) and added an array of practice management services tailored to the aesthetic surgery practice.

A timely inquiry
The question during the PSN interview was perhaps more timely than the interviewers realized. Just a few days earlier during the ASPS Board of Directors meeting in New Orleans, both the ASPS Executive Committee and Board passed resolutions in favor of engaging ASAPS in the development of a unification strategy. The rationale for this resolution was to explore the feasibility of merging the two largest professional societies within plastic surgery and restructure their organizational components in a way that would provide members better value.

The desired outcomes would include a single, strong public voice for the specialty, avoiding redundancy of education and research activities, and offering a reduced dues structure, especially for current members of both organizations without raising the dues of those ASPS members not currently part of the ASAPS membership. These benefits can be accomplished through economies of scale, merging of resources, focusing of purpose and eliminating duplication.

To be clear, it is not our desire to eliminate or depreciate the unique strength that ASAPS holds or the tremendous value of its aesthetic brand, its distinct membership, or its educational focus and leadership. It is not our desire to eliminate aesthetic educational opportunities or to alter the vision of ASAPS. Our goal and hope was to come to the table and look together at what a combined organizational structure could accomplish in aligning and strengthening all aspects of aesthetic surgery within plastic surgery.

To this end, the ASPS Executive Committee recently solicited member feedback to determine the sentiments of our members, many of whom are members of both societies. The summary results are described in the article on Page 7 of this issue of the March issue of PSN (To read article online, click here).

Although questions of validity can be raised with any tool to collect feedback of this kind, the results clearly indicate 80 percent of all members would support an effort to look at ways to merge the organizations moving forward.

A unified specialty
Many of our specialty's biggest challenges are shared, and lie with non-board certified plastic surgeons, new government regulations, increasing demand for data collection and quality outcome measures, Maintenance of Certification and Maintenance of Licensure, and all the while continuing to manage our practices in an environment
that is likely to become even more competitive starting in 2014.

As leaders in organized plastic surgery, our job is to continually and aggressively advance the interests of plastic surgeons in all areas: Research and Academic Affairs, Education, Practice Management Solutions, and Public Education, Policy and Advocacy. It is our belief that the overall value proposition for the average plastic surgeon would be vastly improved if an agreement could be reached to corporately merge the two societies. We recognize there will be many and varying viewpoints, but we felt that it was important to hear from our members and equally important to engage the Aesthetic Society in discussions on this topic.

As always, ASPS/PSF will continue to advance important objectives on behalf of our member surgeons. We have many new initiatives and programs being rolled out in the coming months. At the same time, we remain dedicated to listening to and engaging our members while striving to develop the right organizational structure to take all of Plastic Surgery successfully into the future.