Highlights from the UPRAS Conference 2019

The 12th Undergraduate Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery Conference (UPRAS) was held at the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) in London on the 30th of November this year with an overwhelmingly accomplished list of speakers. They introduced the students and junior doctors to the key components of plastic surgery with a few that were incredibly inspiring whom I will talk about today. They were all delivered with witty anecdotes, real enthusiasm and optimism, giving everyone in the room a sense of hope for their respective careers.

For those who have not visited the RSM building, it is definitely worth visiting, with such a sense of grandeur and elegance, you would almost expect Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March to be played as you entered. After entry, I was directed towards the auditorium, where the comfortable red seats and layout of the room gave an air of seriousness and importance. As I sat down and looked around, I could imagine the historical moments in medicine that might have happened in the auditorium, preparing me for the series of amazing lectures ahead.

The event was introduced by Mr. Naveen Cavale, the President of Plastic Surgery Section of the RSM, who began by describing the benefits of plastic surgery, with its unique selling point as a sociable specialty! He described the pleasure of being able to work with everyone and how great it is to be a popular person with everyone’s personal phone numbers from across many disciplines! With a more serious tone, he then stressed the importance of eagerness, having interest and teamwork by repeatedly saying “Don’t do anything you don’t want to do” and “Find people to play with”, a resounding message for all in the room.

“You are the last antidote to pessimism”

The first talk was given by Mr. Jorge Leon-Villapalos, an esteemed Paediatric Lead Clinician of the Burns Unit at Chelsea and Westminster hospital on the acute management of a burned patient. The talk began with a series of unfortunate burn victims, very early as he joked, for Saturday morning before explaining how the patients who enter the Burns Unit present with different degrees of burns and how we assess them using the Jackson’s Burn Model. He then continued to address the importance of accurate assessment with ATLS, burn depth and size, moving onto the management using the Parkland Formula. It was incredibly informative talk with devastating pictures that caused some reactions from the audience which concluded with the importance of a multidisciplinary team and essentially teamwork in getting through life. He mentions that as a Burns surgeon, that “you are the last antidote to pessimism” and that this is not possible without listening to everyone.

The next talk was equally informative, beginning with a history lesson in plastic surgery. Mrs. Jenny L C Geh, the lead plastic skin surgeon for Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust Departments, explained how Harold Gillies, the father of plastic surgery began in Queen Mary Hospital Sidcup and how the birth of plastic surgery owes its thanks to war! More pictures followed, the most interesting being the pictures of a lady with a huge hole in the nose due to skin cancer that was fixed with a forehead flap, one of the oldest plastic surgery procedures. Huge squamous cell carcinomas, devastating metastatic melanomas took centre stage as she described how no-one can really know what to expect in this career, which makes it exciting. She stressed how everyone needs a Plan A, B and C in their journey through plastic surgery especially since this field involves big traumatic cases to intricate microsurgery. Her enthusiasm throughout the presentation left a reminder of the importance of passion and commitment in each individual’s journey as she concluded on how it is the patients that make the job satisfying, and therefore how important it is to listen to the patient in their recovery and treatment through even the most terminal stages of cancers.

“Teach thy tongue to say, ‘I don’t know’ and thou shalt progress” – Rambam

The highlight of the morning was a talk by Mr. Simon Filson, a consultant paediatric plastic surgeon at Evelina Children’s Hospital, on paediatric plastic surgery and training abroad. He began humorously by saying that plastic surgery was “Make it up as you go along – plasty” that allows the individual to be inventive and artistic with their work but was a luxury that came with the downside of having to actually learn the basic fundamental techniques! It was amazing to hear his journey in Haifa, Israel at the world-renowned trauma centre Rambam Hospital with the difficulties he faced such as language, culture and Syrian Civil War that was going on at the time. One of his slides contained a quote form Rambam, a Jewish philosopher, that said, “Teach thy tongue to say, ‘I don’t know’ and thou shalt progress”, which was very reassuring for the medical students in the room as it is a phrase that we most often say. He explained how this phrase had helped him learn and undertake more responsibility as he showed us before and after pictures of devastating injuries such as bullet wounds to the head, dodgem car injuries where a girl had all her hair and scalp torn off and many more war causalities. It was the dramatic transformation of the patient from what seemed to be unsalvageable to normal functioning, aesthetic state that was amazing and left me in absolute awe and admiration of the processes that happened in between the two contrasting pictures. By remembering the basics, the consultant explained how you can make a real difference in such a short amount of time and how immense the sense of achievement and pride was, which was incredibly inspirational.

Talks by Dr. Sarah-Jayne Edmundson, Mr. Simon Wood and Professor Ash Mosahebi addressed the more practical side of the event by explaining their respective journeys and the tips they gained along the way, in particular with projects and research. They were talks on how to get ahead and what kind of mindset we need to be in, the most memorable being ‘plasticity’ which obtained many laughs. Overall, with amazing speakers giving inspiring talks, the whole day was nothing short of excellent and with the chance to talk to them personally during breaks, it was truly a wonderful experience and one I recommend anyone who is interested in plastic surgery to attend.

All smiles before an amazing day at UPRAS!

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Yangmyung Ma is a fourth year medical student at HYMS and is the current President of the HYMS MedTech Society. He has a keen interest in plastic surgery and research. In his spare time, he enjoys playing music or sports.

Yangmyung presented his experience at the UPRAS Conference on 16th January 2020 to delegates at Hull Medical Society. Many thanks to the Society for this opportunity!