Safe to Have Breast Lift Done by a Graduate Fellow?

I'm planning to have a breast lift done in New York. The price is affordable but I'm afraid to have it done there because the surgery will be performed by a graduate fellow who has completed his residency. Do you think its safe?

Doctor Answers 11

Surgery by a graduate fellow

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Hi Josi,

The scenario you describe is one I was in a few years ago. After I finished my residency training, I did an extra year of aesthetic fellowship training at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital. We had a thriving, relatively low cost clinic, in which patients received high quality surgery from surgeons getting experience above and beyond what most plastic surgeons obtain. It was safe and mutually beneficial for the patients and the plastic surgery fellows.

Should you have surgery by a gradulate fellow?

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The situation you describe is often a good way to save some money. The termonology can be a bit confusing though so here is how it works: Plastic surgeons train in a residency program after medical school, which typically consists of a few years of genreal surgery then plastic. So the residents as part of their training assist and then perform the surgeries, under the supervision of the attending surgeons. After residency, they can either enter practice or take additionall training in the form of a fellowship. So fellows are fully trained in the specialty, they are just honing their skills in a particular subspecialty area. Either way you should be in good hands.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 59 reviews

Plastic surgery performed by fellows.

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1) I help to train cosmetic surgery fellows at Lenox Hill Hospital, and I can tell you that it is a very safe environment. The fellows have good supervision and are well trained.

2) You are much better off going to a fellow in a clinic than going to a private surgeon who charges a suspiciously low fee.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon

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Breast lift by a fellow

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It is perfectly safe to have a fellow perform your breast surgery as long as an attending plastic surgeon is going to be there with him.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Breast lift done by a graduate fellow

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As a former New Yorker, I am very familiar with the Plastic Surgery academic scene in New York.

Depending on WHICH training program you go to - it is as safe to have surgery by a "Fellow" as it may be in private practice.

Personally, I do not think that being operated on by Plastic Surgery residents is the same as being operated on by Plastic Surgery Fellows. BUT if the supervising attending surgeon is in the OR working with the fellow and if the attending surgeon can be easily consulted I would would have no problem with this choice.

I agree with a previous post that I would be much more weary of an amazingly low fee charged by a private plastic surgeon that the fees charged by the Plastic Surgery Fellows clinic at a well respected teaching hospital.

Good Luck.

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

Caveat Emptor

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Although price may be compelling, you are placing yourself in the hands of a student and not a master.

If you choose to go this way, be sure that you have the assurance that the attending (experienced) surgeon will be in the room at all times to assure quality and safety.


Cost versus Experience for Breast Lift

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This is how I learned in residency with patients coming to my cosmetic clinic at decreased cost. The patients accepts the fact that the results should be pretty good but not as good as they might be in more experienced hands. In plastic surgery, if things are correct, patients pay for experience.

As long as it is OK with you, it is OK. Examine the circumstances and supervision. Is there expert supervision available? There was where I trained.

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon

Lift Done by a Graduate Fellow

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This practice has long been around. Whether it is appropriate for you depends on a number of factors including: which surgeon is supervising the fellow, the complexity of your case, and your alternatives.

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 56 reviews

Cost Versus Experience

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   The real question here is how much supervision the fellow will have by his attending surgeon and is the fellowship in an accredited program. We all had to start somewhere and these fellow run cosmetic clinics offer a great way for surgeons to hone their craft before they go out into private practice. The key to this model is that the patient is paying a much cheaper fee to have a qualified but much less experienced surgeon perform the surgery. Be sure the fellow has appropiate supervision by a board certified plastic surgeon who has experience with the surgery you are considering. Good luck, if you do your homework, you should have a good experience.


Douglas L. Gervais, MD
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 178 reviews

Breast Lift by Graduate Fellow?

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Thank you for the question.

The fact that you are asking the question, suggests that you understand that there is a difference in experience and potential end results achieved by physicians in training. The difference between a physician in training versus a physician who has been in practice for many years comes down to a track record.

If a plastic surgeon can show you specific experience with  successful outcome of surgery you will have some peace of mind that he/she can achieve the results you're looking for. The physician in training generally does not have this track history.

On the other hand, there are physicians who have been in practice for many years who do “sloppy” work.

My best suggestion for patients who are interested in the highest quality results would be to save your money and find the best plastic surgeon available to do your procedure.

Best wishes.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.