Why we need more plastic surgeons in Kenya

Plastic surgeons Dr Ajujo Martin (left) and Prof. Stanley Khanenga [Elvis Ogina.Standard]
The demand for plastic surgeons locally keeps growing necessitated by the need for reconstructive and cosmetic procedures, says Dr Ajujo Martin who holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Nairobi, and is currently completing his masters in medicine in plastics, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery.

He was among the doctors who successfully reattached a young boy’s private parts in a highly-publicised operation.

He spoke to Hashtag about what it takes to be a plastic surgeon and why there is a need for more plastic surgeons in the country.

Who is a plastic surgeon?

A plastic surgeon is a specialist with a skill set to handle reconstructive and aesthetic surgery. The scope has evolved to involve stem cell and regenerative medicine as well as reconstructive micro-surgery.

Why did you choose to be a plastic surgeon?

I wanted the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better. Plastic surgery is the area in surgery where you are not restricted by any anatomical sites.

You have the freedom to move from head to toe to many other parts of the body where one can do hair transplant, face-lifts, facial reconstruction, breast lifts, reduction or augmentation, breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, body contour among many other things.

It also allows you to reconstruct lives after trauma, accidents or cancer.

What does a typical day at work consist of for you?

My days are usually hectic; I usually start with presentations at 7am, and then head to either the clinic, ward or theatre.

The bulk of my work is in the operating room and sometime runs late into the night or in some instances throughout the night. I work Monday to Saturday and occasionally on Sundays when duty calls. 

What makes a good plastic surgeon?

The ability to combine art and science make a good plastic surgeon. This kind of surgery is like architecture and you have to view problems and solutions in 3D. 

One must also have the patience to listen, comprehend and convert wishes into a treatment plan. A proper plastic surgeon should be armed with at least three different plans and scenarios at any given time they are in a theatre.

Practice of plastic surgery also calls for good social skills, humility and empathy as some of the patients have fragile self-esteem, so one has to be very sensitive.

Why are there very few plastic surgeons in Kenya?

There has not been a demand for plastic surgeons locally in the past. Many people, thus, would travel to places like India to get their procedures done but in the recent past, the demand for plastic surgery locally has been growing as more people get educated on the trade and what it entails.

Currently there are about 30 postgraduate students for the master’s programme at the University of Nairobi studying to be plastic surgeons.

What is the common misconception about plastic surgery?

Plastic surgery is broader than what people assume. It includes reconstruction after excision of a tumor, replantation of organs, wound care and corrective surgery and after accidents, trauma or burns. A plastic surgeon will work to give form and function.

This involves replacing a missing part of the body while ensuring it is not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

What challenges do you face in the course of your work?

Training to be a plastic surgeon is quite demanding and requires the student to sacrifice their time. One has to work very hard to acquire the skills needed. Matching expectations from people is also hard. 

It is not always possible to meet or match patients’ expectations as some are unrealistic, however the surgeon tries. Like any other surgeries, complications can also arise.

What are the qualifications for one to be a plastic surgeon and are there any Kenyan universities that offer the course?

A Bachelor degree in medicine and surgery (MBChB) or equivalent and Masters in medicine in plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery (MMED PRAS) or equivalent.

The course is offered at the University of Nairobi.  

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Dr Ajujo MartinPlastic SurgeryReconstructive Surgery