American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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Honoring Hispanic heritage in plastic surgery: Celebrating influential pioneers and innovations

Hispanic heritage in plastic surgery

The world of plastic surgery has been a melting pot of ideas, influences and groundbreaking achievements where Hispanic surgeons have played a pivotal role in shaping its history and current practices.

We spoke with two prominent voices in this space to honor the contributions of Hispanic surgeons to the specialty – Francisco "Paco" Canales, MD, and Onelio "Oni" Garcia Jr., MD.

Pioneers in the field

Canales, whose journey began in Mexico City and covered educational milestones in Puerto Rico, Harvard, Yale and Stanford, recalls some of the early Hispanic pioneers who have left an indelible mark on the field and inspired him.

"[Dr. Fernando Ortiz Monasterio] was a Mexican plastic surgeon who pioneered many techniques, particularly in craniofacial surgery," said Canales, highlighting Monasterio's impactful work in a specialized area that involves correcting deformities or abnormalities of the skull. This early focus on craniofacial surgery helped establish credibility and respect for the Hispanic community within the broader medical community.

Canales also pointed to Dr. Jose Juri from Argentina, saying, "Jose Juri led the way in male-pattern baldness treatments." Juri was revolutionary in developing the temporal-parietal-occipital flap, commonly referred to as the Juri flap, that provided a new option for treating baldness. This was a significant stride at a time when aesthetic concerns like male-pattern baldness were only just gaining attention in surgical circles.

"From Latin America to Spain, with Dr. Jaime Planas, we have seen a remarkable influence on plastic surgery," added Canales. Planas is notable for having trained over 100 plastic surgeons globally, many from Latin America, cementing the reach and impact of Hispanic contributions.

"Today, Hispanic plastic surgeons like Alfredo Hoyos, Lina Triana, Eduardo Rodriguez and Francisco Bravo are internationally known in their respective fields," said Canales, acknowledging that the legacy is being well carried on by new leaders.

Hoyos is renowned for his work in body contouring, whereas Lina Triana has made significant advancements in female genital surgery. Eduardo Rodriguez is a leader in the complex field of facial transplantation, while Francisco Bravo specializes in facial aesthetic surgery.

Complementing this, Garcia, who has a deep familial history in medicine, also noted, "Drs. Julio Garcia from Nevada and Luis Rios from Texas have been instrumental in promoting meaningful, current aesthetic surgery research." Garcia and Rios have held significant positions in the world of plastic surgery and have championed important research in aesthetic surgery.

The field of plastic surgery continually evolves, pushing the boundaries of what is medically possible.

"Recently, Dr. Eddie Rodriguez, who, like me, is a Cuban American, has made significant contributions to our specialty, particularly in the field of face transplantation," stated Garcia.

Facial transplantation is a procedure of staggering complexity and nuance, requiring surgical expertise and a deep understanding of immunology, aesthetics and function. Rodriguez's work in this domain is not only a medical feat but also a testament to the impactful roles that Hispanic physicians play in advancing plastic surgery.

The intersection of culture and aesthetics

The unique blend of aesthetic ideals, ethnic backgrounds and community values shapes the kinds of procedures that are in demand and the techniques used to achieve them. This has been notably evident in the increasing influence and contributions of Hispanic and Latino communities in the field of plastic surgery, both as patients and as healthcare professionals.

"Aesthetic preferences are unique to each culture," said Canales, who noted that "many Hispanic female patients prefer a very curvy figure with large breasts balanced by curved hips. That preference has led to a large demand for fat grafting to the buttocks, aka the Brazilian butt lift."

Canales is pointing to something much more significant than a mere trend. He identifies a dialogue between plastic surgery and culture, where surgeons must be adept not just in medical procedures but also in understanding the distinct aesthetic languages of different communities.

This sentiment is echoed by Garcia. "The choices are changing, and a lot of these young ladies are now perhaps trying to identify with their cultural backgrounds," he said.

Garcia finds that these evolving aesthetic preferences are possibly a nod to the women's cultural roots, especially in ethnically diverse areas/cities like Miami, where you will find a mix of Hispanic and Latino communities. He attributed the increased demand for body contouring and breast-shaping techniques to these shifting cultural norms.

Both surgeons recognize the global influence of Latin American surgeons in developing popular techniques.

"Many of the current abdominoplasty techniques are variations of techniques proposed by Dr. Saldanha and Dr. Avelar, both from Brazil," said Garcia. Their techniques have not only gained traction within Latin American communities but have also become mainstream in American plastic surgery.

Beyond aesthetic choices, the two experts noted the significance of having a cultural rapport between the surgeon and the patient to better achieve the look the patient desires.

"Hispanics overall are very comfortable with the concept of aesthetic surgery," said Garcia. "As physicians, it is helpful to have an understanding of the different cultures that make up our patient population."

This intimate understanding of cultural aesthetics and values extends to the entire patient journey – from consultation to postoperative care.

"There is evidence of better outcomes, particularly related to following postop instructions when specific patient groups align with physicians who are either part of that group or are familiar with the cultural background of those patients," said Canales.

The importance of cultural understanding in the patient-surgeon relationship

The patient-surgeon relationship in plastic surgery is not just a matter of medical expertise; it also hinges on cultural understanding and mutual respect.

Linguistic compatibility can significantly impact the patient experience. Garcia, based in Miami, a city with a high number of Spanish-speaking residents and medical tourists, highlighted this by saying, "With my bi-cultural identity, I feel equally comfortable performing a consultation in English or in Spanish, depending on what the patient prefers."

Cultural resonance between a patient and surgeon makes it easier to build trust and communicate effectively. Patients may be more open to sharing their concerns, asking questions and adhering to postoperative care instructions if they feel understood and respected by their surgeon.

Yet, the benefits go beyond mere translation of words. Being bilingual allows Garcia to grasp the nuances of how different cultures express pain, concerns or even satisfaction, thereby facilitating a more empathetic approach to patient care.

Family also plays a significant role in medical decisions in many Hispanic cultures.

"Knowing the role of Hispanic families and how involved they are in a relative's medical care is crucial," said Canales. A surgeon who understands this can better navigate the family dynamics that often come into play during the consultation process, surgical planning and postoperative care.

Mentorship and advice for aspiring surgeons

Mentorship in any field has always been essential for success, and the field of plastic surgery is no different. Both Canales and Garcia emphasize the importance of guidance and support for younger generations of Hispanic and Latino doctors entering this specialty.

Canales noted that while the number of Hispanic plastic surgeons might be small, the sense of community and willingness to mentor is strong.

"There are few of us in the field, but all of us are happy to mentor younger Hispanic plastic surgeons," said Canales.

Such mentorship can be particularly impactful for younger Hispanic and Latino medical students and residents, who may face unique cultural or systemic barriers. Providing mentorship could encompass sharing experiences, career guidance, research opportunities and even the all-important hands-on surgical training.

The role of Hispanic mentors like Canales and Garcia is crucial, whether it is guiding surgical techniques, navigating the intricacies of patient care in a culturally diverse society or simply offering sage advice about life and career choices is clear that mentorship will continue to play a crucial role in shaping the future leaders of Hispanic and Latino communities in plastic surgery.

To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.


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