American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

Why a patient advocate attends Plastic Surgery The Meeting

Terri Coutee - breast reconstruction advocate

Turn the clock back to September 2016 in Los Angeles. Picture a patient advocate who has never attended Plastic Surgery The Meeting (PSTM). Walking into the Los Angeles convention center she feels like a kid in a candy store, wide-eyed and excited at the possibilities, but not fully grasping what those possibilities will be.

The patient advocate was me. Along with the excitement of just being there in September 2016, I had just opened a nonprofit foundation to support women and men and was excited to go to work to share with these brilliant surgeons what I was doing. The mission of the foundation is to empower patients with the education and resources needed to make an informed decision about breast reconstruction when faced with mastectomy. There I was in a gold mine of plastic surgeons to see how we could share ideas to improve patient experiences together.

Connecting plastic surgeons and patient advocates

What better venue to connect with some of the finest plastic surgeons in the country than at PSTM? I planned to meet new surgeons, talk to them about their breast reconstruction procedures and attend as many sessions as I could. I'll admit, I did not absorb nearly as much as I wanted to, I wasn't savvy at navigating the schedule or optimizing the events I attended the meeting for. But I did learn and I took notes for PSTM17, determined I wanted to return to this great event the following year.

Skip ahead to Orlando in 2017. What an amazing experience I had being a part of the first-ever patient panel. With three ASPS member surgeons and two patients beside myself on the panel, I felt so fortunate to be back at PSTM. The networking continued and I was able to meet more plastic surgeons outside the breast reconstruction community. Connecting with the aesthetic group separate from breast reconstruction was a bonus, helping me to understand the depth and breadth of plastic surgery.

Orlando felt familiar and comfortable. I spoke to brilliant surgeons who spent many of their early years preparing for their practice. They were with their colleagues to network and learn, and yet, I felt so warmly welcomed. I truly enjoyed conversations with residents. This only solidified my admiration of choosing this profession and the commitment it takes to be a successful plastic surgeon.

Becoming part of the community

Visiting the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (PRS) video booth, I was able to make a video with two fine plastic surgeons about what it was like to be back at the meeting. The PRS Journal continues to be my chosen resource for plastic surgery updates, videos, and surgical procedures and the latest studies in plastic surgery. I met new microsurgeons performing breast reconstruction. I saw new techniques used in surgery. I was impressed with the research being done on BIA-ALCL and the transparency ASPS continues to report on this topic. The sessions I attended expanded my work as a patient advocate. My own breast reconstruction surgeon encouraged me and took me to a class on social media led by some of the ASPS staff from Chicago. How cool is that? He was genuinely interested in my own personal growth. I was grateful. I gained information in the session about the value and integrity of the material we share in the plastic surgery community I now feel a part very much of as a returning patient advocate to PSTM.

The support I have had from the plastic surgery community and ASPS has been phenomenal. The physicians and support staff have been welcoming and engaging. It has made my work much more valuable. I feel I can reach many more women and men who need this education and information.

Preparing for PSTM18 has been no less exhilarating. I am thrilled my own plastic reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo, has secured yet another patient panel in shared decision making. I look forward to being on the panel again in Chicago with a fellow patient advocate and two ASPS members. The possibilities are endless for collaboration on this and other topics patient advocates and ASPS members can discuss and share together. This is a road, a journey for so many. We serve patients both as surgeons and as patient advocates. How will we continue to help each other along the way? Together! See you all in Chicago!

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


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