Plastic Surgery is steeped in the tradition of providing care in times of urgent need. Plastic surgery restores, rebuilds and transforms the lives of patients affected by injury, birth anomalies, cancers and other diseases. The Foundation is established to harness the philanthropic spirit and unique knowledge of specialist plastic surgeons and to deliver innovative targeted and sustainable projects that provide tangible benefits to patients and their communities in need of medical assistance and care. The Foundation's Outreach Program is managed by the Outreach Committee.
In accordance with its Object in its Constitution, the Foundation is established for the purpose of relieving the needs of persons suffering from burns, wounds, trauma, disfigurement, sickness, disease or other medical conditions, including by:
- facilitating the provision of medical relief in the form of, or related to, plastic surgery
- developing and delivering community outreach programs to identify and provide medical care and surgical services
- building capacity of nurses, community workers, first responders and medical staff, particularly in rural and remote areas, to identify and/or appropriately triage persons in need of medical assistance
- facilitating plastic surgery education and research relating to, and in furtherance of, the provision of benevolent relief
- doing such other things as incidental or conducive to the attainment of these objectives
Wound Management Program
Wounds currently present a significant burden to the Australian healthcare system, with more than AU$2.85 billion per year spent on chronic wounds alone (greater than $60,000 annually per individual with a wound). That cost is expected to increase as the nation's population ages and diabetes and obesity rates rise.
Regional and Remote Communities
Estimates are that 400,000 patients suffer from chronic wounds at any time in Australia, and that while specialist care is centralised to urban centres, the majority of wounds, and in particular minor wounds, are managed at a community or rural level. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to have a greater burden of ill health with a lower life expectancy and higher incidence of chronic diseases. In remote areas there are only 589 nurses and 58 GPs per 100,000 residents compared to almost 1000 nurses and nearly 200 GPs in major cities.
How does the Foundation help?
The Foundation focuses on drawing on expertise in plastic surgery to provide medical care services that address unmet community needs, such as for people who cannot gain access to medical support, or who cannot afford to pay.
The Foundation is targeting its Wound Management Program to support people in regional and remote Australian communities who do not have the same access to integrated and specialist health services as is available in cities and major urban centres. The Foundation's outreach program of specialist support will be delivered by:
- arranging plastic surgery visits to remote areas to assess health care needs
- providing learning modules on wound closure and suturing techniques
- providing face to face clinical assessments and train the trainer workshops
- providing a tele-wound service via the internet using the volunteer time and skill of specialist plastic surgeons rostered to provide on-demand advice and support to local health practitioners in wound assessment and care
- providing a checklist of steps for wound assessment and care
- providing follow up services
- gathering data and undertaking research to ensure evidence based responses to health care needs
Initially, the Foundation will conduct two pilot programs in wound care management: Far North Queensland (using Cairns as the base); and Northern Territory (using Alice Springs as the base). The Foundation aims to partner with existing health care providers, community organisations and government and non-government organisations to develop a comprehensive outreach program in wound management.
'It's OK to be You' Program
Relative to other surgical specialties, self-esteem and body image issues intersect more closely with the Plastic Surgery Specialty. Specialist Plastic Surgeons have a high level of direct exposure to young people seeking plastic and reconstructive surgery, who may often exhibit signs of a personal struggle with self-esteem.
The plastic surgery specialty championed the Medical Board of Australia's Guidelines for registered medical practitioners who perform cosmetic medical and surgical procedures effective 1 October 2016, which amongst other things mandates both a 3 month cooling-off period and psychological evaluation for young people seeking elective cosmetic surgery. 'It's OK to be You' aims to change the social environment that normalises cosmetic surgery in the eyes of young people, leading them to see it as a solution to body image issues. Developing emotional resilience and accepting ones looks are an important part of maturing. At the core of the program is the recognition of the importance of positive self-esteem in young people and an acknowledgement that Specialist Plastic Surgeons have an important role to play.
The 'It's OK to be You' mental health program will engage Specialist Plastic Surgeons to give their unique experience and expertise to assist young people in Australia aged 14 to 18 suffering from mental illnesses associated with poor body image. The program will assist young people to better understand and management mental health issues associated with body image, to promote a healthy attitude to body image, and to provide access and referrals to appropriate health care services.
This program will have a particular focus on young people living in rural and remote communities.
How does the Foundation help?
Pilot programs will be developed for urban and remote settings. Lessons learned from these pilots will inform the next stage of the program. It will also involve equipping and training specialist plastic surgeons with appropriate information (a 'tool kit') about mental health, and how to effectively respond to and assist young people seeking cosmetic surgery and who may be experiencing underlying mental health issues related to low self-esteem, poor body image and/or trauma.
Taking an evidence based approach the Foundation will initially convene an Appearance Research Symposium at the 2017 Plastic Surgery Congress. Invited international and domestic experts will discuss how to quantify the effect/outcomes of appearance altering surgery, and the impact it has on the patient. Both the psychological factors motivating young people to seek cosmetic surgery, and the social and cultural influences on body image will be discussed. The symposium will act as a starting point from which to frame the scope of the Foundation's 'It's OK to be You' Program.
Specialist Plastic Surgeons provide the surgical workforce for several international aid agencies, including Interplast and Operation Smile. These surgeons perform essential reconstructive procedures such as cleft lip and palate surgery and surgery for burns victims in developing countries. Specialist Plastic Surgeons also train local medical personnel to build the capacity of the national health services.
International Registrar Program
The Foundation, in collaboration with Interplast Australia & New Zealand, offers an annual grant to support the participation of a plastic and reconstructive surgery trainee as an observer as part of an Interplast team for a one week mission. The program highlights the importance of international outreach through the provision of medical aid, and encourages voluntary service and future engagement with disadvantaged communities in the Asia-Pacific region. The first grant recipient is Dr Sarah Tolerton, Sydney, NSW. Sarah will join the Interplast mission to Laos in February 2017. Cleft repair, acute burns and burns scar contractures, and trauma reconstruction is the main focus of surgery.
Partner with Us
There is an opportunity for industry and other organisations to work with the Foundation in providing outreach to rural and regional communities. If you share our values and are interested in partnering with the Foundation, please contact us.