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UCI’s Plastic Surgery Resident Students Share Their Experiences on Their Road to Becoming a Plastic Surgeon

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UCI’s School of Medicine (SOM) has a renowned, highly-rated Department of Plastic Surgery that places an emphasis on novel methods of replacing damaged tissue. In this department, there are several resident students who have begun or are nearing the end of their academic journey in plastics. Two resident students, PGY-2 resident Eric Hines and PGY-3 resident Omotayo Arowojolu, sought to share their experiences with aspiring undergraduate students on the road to becoming plastic surgeons.

Second year resident student Hines, who received his M.D. from the University of Arizona College of Medicine, shed light on his inspiration behind joining the medical field.

“During college, I didn’t even know I wanted to be a physician. It wasn’t until I suffered a few hockey-related injuries that I began my pursuit of medicine. Starting medical school, I was open to all the medical specialties and wanted to learn as much as possible. My advice is there is no right or wrong way to get into medicine. Everyone has a different path and background,” Hines said.

After discovering his interests in medicine, Hines learned that he would love to become a plastic surgeon; he stands proud of this decision today.

“In my opinion, plastic surgery is the most rewarding specialty in medicine. You are fortunate enough to help people regain function while applying principles to give them the aesthetically best outcome. You have the opportunity to work with patients of all ages and genders. The possibilities are endless since we operate on the entire body, head-to-toe. It is the one specialty I found that is a true art form. Innovation is also a central principle. This is what sets plastic surgery apart,” Hines said.

While the road to pursuing medicine was tedious, Hines does not regret it. 

“The journey has been challenging yet rewarding. To be successful, you need to have a desire to get better every day, even when you want to take a break or quit. Don’t let failure stop you. I failed so many times in my life. You learn from failure, not from being perfect. It’s what you do after you fail that matters. If you can reflect on what went wrong and critically analyze your mistakes, you will grow exponentially and be successful,” Hines said. 

Third year resident student Arowojolu, who received her M.D. and Ph.D. from New York University, shared similar yet different experiences.

“I decided to do plastic surgery late into medical school and did not have the experience that comes with getting early exposure to the field. I will say that as soon as you know that you are interested in plastic surgery, get involved right away,” Arowojolu said. “I began reading PRS Journal articles, watched plastic surgery educational videos and reached out to the plastic surgery residents immediately to ask about projects and events to join.” 

Hines and Arowojolu felt that their acceptance into this residency program has diversified their skills as aspiring surgeons and provided them with the tools necessary to grow as individuals.

“I was lucky to match into the specialty and even luckier to join the UCI Department of Plastic Surgery,” Hines said. “The program has diverse faculty from various training backgrounds. We receive excellent exposure to the multitude of specialties within plastic surgery and the best aesthetic experience in the country. The affiliation with the Center for Tissue Engineering where innovative research is being performed is an added value.”  

Arowojolu shares similar thoughts.

“The diversity of cases, the emphasis on combining aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, and the location in OC/SoCal which has the highest density of plastic surgeons to learn from sets UCI’s Department of Plastic Surgery apart from the rest,” Arowojolu said. “In addition, there are numerous opportunities for translational research through our Center for Tissue Engineering and innovation through Beall Applied Innovation. Lastly, but most importantly, my family of co-residents and faculty are always supporting and encouraging me to succeed.”

For further inquiries, visit the UCI SOM’s Department of Plastic Surgery website.

Esha Sashil Chandra is a STEM Staff Writer for the 2021-22 school year. She can be reached at eschandr@uci.edu.