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Is experience all that it is cracked up to be?

What does twenty years or more of experience in surgery mean to a plastic surgeon and his patients?

By Elise Brooks, Nip Tuck News Staff writer
May, 2010

Almost anyone who wants to be the best at anything has to spend hours practicing and perfecting their skills. I had the pleasure of interviewing Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, Dr. Frederic Corbin, to get his take on being a plastic surgeon with over 25 years experience.

EB: Have you changed as a surgeon since you left plastic surgery training years ago?

Dr. C: “Am I a better surgeon now then when I left training? Certainly after 7 years of residency, completing both General Surgery and Plastic Surgery Fellowships and passing the boards, I was considered by my peers to be an expert in the field of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. At the time of completion I certainly felt like I could tackle anything in my field and had the skills and training to do well. But I am in point of fact a better surgeon now then I was when I first started as a surgeon.” One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein, “The only source of knowledge is experience”

EB: Dr.Corbin are you a more knowledgeable surgeon today than you were 20 years ago?

Dr. C: “Absolutely, without question. My approach to surgery is still the same and that is to do the best job I possibly can, but over 25 years of experience gives me more knowledge both in evaluating the patients and operating on them. I am a more knowledgeable plastic and reconstructive surgeon because I have the hands on experience of performing thousands of surgeries over the years.”

EB: Are you required to continue your education once you are a plastic surgeon?

Dr. C: “Yes as a member of American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) the largest plastic surgery specialty organization in the world, I am required to get 150 Continuing Medical Education Credits (CME) in a three year period. I on my own, because I want to be the best I can be, have always kept up with new techniques, education and instrumentation.”

EB: Is there anything else other than education and experience that makes you a better surgeon?

DR. C: "I am a better surgeon because I have the opportunity to learn from my own patients to see what works best in any given situation and to see the long term results of operations that I have performed. Similarly it takes months and sometimes years to see what breast, facial, or nose operation will yield the best results long term not just in the first couple of months.”

EB: So not only is surgical experience valuable, but the post operative part of surgery is educational for you as well.

Dr. C: “Yes exactly, from seeing my own patients come back months and years after surgery I know I can now better predict what is ultimately the best surgical approach in any one patient. That is ultimately what my experience means to me is being able to predict the future result that my patient will receive with any one operation and therefore being able to know what will work BEST in surgery

EB: We hear over and over, practice makes perfect and Dr. Corbin agrees that this also applies to getting the best surgery results.

DR. C: “Every time a surgeon goes into surgery there is an opportunity to learn and to become a better surgeon. No two patients are the same and no two surgeries are the same so we are always learning through our experience in the operating room and patient follow up.”

EB: Do you perform any surgery you learned 20 years ago using the same technique?

Dr. C: “No. I am always modifying and trying to improve the surgical results and minimize scarring. A perfect example is a basic breast augmentation. Twenty five years ago we put a scar under the breast and put the breast implants in through what is known as the Inframammary approach. Today, I make a much smaller incision and most commonly put the implants in through under the arm, around the nipple or through the belly button. On rare occasions I will still use the inframammary approach. The other day I had a patient who had a small mole on her abdomen that she wanted removed. I thought why put 2 additional scars on her body so I put her breast implants in through the tiny incision I made when I removed the mole. The patient and staff in the operating room were amazed!”

EB: We have seen the shape of noses vary over the years and I am curious Dr. Corbin what you do differently now that you have done surgery on thousands of noses.

Dr. C: “Experts say it takes at least one hundred nasal operations before one can be proficient at a Rhinoplasty but it takes far more then that to learn with time what really gives the best result not just at a week or month but years later.”

EB: I remember my aunt and cousin both had nose jobs in the early 80’s. The end results were small turned up looking noses that looked very done. What trends are you seeing with Rhinoplasty surgery today?

Dr. C: “The current trends in nasal surgery is a more natural appearing nose that is in harmony with the rest of the facial features. I have learned how to get more natural looking noses without making a big visible scar across the columella at the base of the nose. I usually like to hide the inscions inside the nostrils so they are not noticeable. I also have been using more of the patient’s natural cartilage from their septum to make changes to the dorsum and tip of the nose, improving the size and shape of the nose. Because I perform so many redo surgeries some of the patients coming to me operated on by other surgeons don’t have septum cartilage left so I am now using radiated rib cartilage. Nasal implants are still used, but there are more options today that in the past.”

Dr. Corbin’s 25 years in practice not only benefits him and his patients , but he often shares his surgical advances and experience with visiting medical students and doctors from around the world.

Dr. C:Not only have I become a better surgeon I am better at understanding my patients needs and concerns. As a surgeon I am always evolving. When I look at how I practiced medicine 25 years ago I can clearly see that today we have many more options to offer patients both surgically and non surgically. Technology has affected surgery and medicine in many positive ways, but good old fashion experience is still key in getting the best surgical results. The wealth of experience I have banked over the years is worth its weight in gold.

“Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.”
- Aldous Huxley

Experience plays an important role in shaping the ability, confidence and qualifications this plastic surgeon has achieved over the years. Through operating, follow up, patient care and keeping current with medical technology and instrumentation Dr. Corbin is at the top of his game as an experienced and caring surgeon. A definite plus for any patient.

Elise Brooks

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