The Spectrum Health/Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Plastic Surgery Integrated Residency program offers an environment of collegiality with rigorous academic pursuit and a demand for excellence of all our residents. We believe the best way to learn plastic surgery during your six year training is through a combination of early and extensive operative experience coupled with a robust didactic curriculum. Our emphasis on research, both clinical and basic science, fosters a unique environment of inquiry and results in residents and faculty producing numerous publications of articles, chapters and books despite our community based training model. Residents get the best of both worlds, an academic environment in a community setting.
Greetings! I am the program director for the integrated plastic surgery residency at Spectrum Health, in partnership with Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Plastic Surgery training is part of our DNA in Grand Rapids. We have been training successful, innovative plastic surgeons for nearly 100 years. As the sixth program director in program history, I am proud of the legacy of excellence and innovation, the environment of collegiality and inquiry and the continued quality of our residents, graduates and faculty.
We believe that plastic surgery is a technically demanding specialty and that to become proficient, residents must begin their operative experience early and be given graduated responsibility in the operative room. This training is completed at free standing and private surgical centers and multiple hospitals including a nearly 700 bed level one trauma center and a free-standing children’s hospital. Our graduates routinely complete their training with between 3,000 and 4,000 procedures as primary surgeon.
Surgical training is not only technical in nature. We believe a rigorous and varied didactic curriculum is needed to complete your plastic surgery training. Our residents spend nearly 10 hours every week in protected classroom time learning all aspects of plastic surgery training including microsurgery, hand surgery, cosmetic surgery, reconstructive breast surgery and adult and pediatric craniofacial surgery. I am proud to say that this robust academic schedule has led to a 100% pass rate on national boards for our graduates and has allowed many of our graduates to secure exceptional post-graduate training at competitive fellowships throughout the world.
Our faculty are dedicated to teaching and academics and many are known for their innovative techniques and educational abilities. Dennis Hammond, MD, our associate program director, is a world- renowned breast surgeon and expert on both cosmetic and reconstructive breast surgery. Dr. Hammond has been invited as a visiting professor at numerous plastic surgery training programs around the world and has helped to train hundreds of surgeons on the intricacies of the SPAIR reduction mammoplasty, a technique he developed and perfected. Dr. John Polley, MD is known for his work with distraction osteogenesis for craniofacial deformities and Dr. Robert Mann for his innovative use of buccal flaps in cleft palate repair. These innovative thought leaders helped develop an academic environment resulting in a large number of publications, including textbooks and articles in peer reviewed journals for themselves and our residents.
Our residents come from diverse backgrounds and medical schools throughout the United States. What they all have in common is a drive for academic excellence, their professionalism and their ability to work well in our team-oriented learning environment. We recruit academically gifted residents who will excel in our training model and who will improve the quality of our residency through their innovation and drive for excellence.
Our plastic surgery training model is unlike any program in the country. All faculty are volunteer board-certified surgeons who train residents because they love to teach.
Residents rotate through several private plastic surgery oﬃces and thus learn about the business side of plastic surgery. This private practice experience coupled with the rigorous academic environment has led us to refer to our program as a “Privademic” model, fusing the best of both the academic and private practice models.
So, if you are looking for excellent plastic surgery training and you are an inquisitive, motivated applicant, this program may be a perfect fit.
Ronald D. Ford, MD, FACS
Program Director, Spectrum Health/Michigan State University Plastic Surgery Integrated Residency
Clinical Professor of Surgery Michigan State University
Immediate Past President, Michigan Academy of Plastic Surgeons
The Spectrum Health/Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency program trains residents in a variety of subspecialties, including hand surgery, microsurgery, trauma, burns and pediatric plastic surgery. In addition to these inpatient responsibilities, residents rotate at office-based, accredited private surgical centers that provide ambulatory and cosmetic surgery training. Our residents routinely graduate with between 3,000 and 4,000 procedures as primary surgeon and often have some of the highest number of surgical procedures of any residency nationwide in breast surgery, body contouring, cosmetic surgery and hand surgery. In addition, the private ambulatory surgical experience exposes residents to the private practice model and thus adds unique training in the business of plastic surgery, helping them eventually navigate the real world of plastic surgery practice. Our mission is to educate and train qualified plastic surgeons who possess sound fundamental knowledge of anatomy and surgery, are competent, ethical and efficient plastic surgeons who are prepared to become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This approach has resulted in a 100 percent board pass rate among our graduates. Read more about our program aims.
Residents in our program work in efficient hospital systems, thus minimizing service needs and maximizing resident education. This system, along with our extensive didactic program has resulted in outstanding plastic surgery in-service exam scores and 100 percent board pass rates. Given this track record of academic excellence along with extensive operative experience, our residents routinely secure exceptional post-graduate fellowship positions in hand surgery, cosmetic surgery, craniofacial surgery and microsurgery at some of the most prestigious institutions in the United States and Canada. Our residents excel in these fellowship positions demonstrating the effectiveness of our curriculum, our training model, and their early and extensive operative experience.
Plastic surgery training in Grand Rapids, Michigan has a long and storied history. It began in 1921 when Ferris Smith trained his first registrar, Patrick Mulligan, MD. Many of the early giants of plastic surgery trained in Grand Rapids using the preceptorship model under Dr. Smith and his protégé and eventual partner, Wallace Steffensen, MD. The first formal plastic surgery residency program was started by Dr. Ralph Blocksma in 1964. This program continues today as a six-year integrated plastic surgery residency. Dr. Blocksma's first resident, Samuel Noordhoff went on to be one of the founders of Chang Gung Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan. It would become one of the largest plastic surgery units in the world with Dr. Noordhoff instrumental in the training of multiple generations of Taiwanese plastic surgeons and in the development of their world-renowned microsurgical unit.
Graduates of our program have been honored with multiple leadership positions in plastic surgery. Ferris Smith was a founding member of the American Association of Plastic Surgeons (AAPS) and the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Clarence Straatsma was a founding member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the Plastic Surgery Foundation and the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Six of our trainees have been president of the ASPS (Clarence Straatsma, Wallace Steffensen, Reed Dingman, Mark Gorney, James T. Wells and Fred McCoy). Dr. Smith was president of the American Association of Plastic Surgeons and two graduates have been presidents of the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgery (Samuel Noordhoff and Wallace Steffensen). In addition, five graduates have received Special Achievement awards from ASPS (Smith, James T. Mills, Clarence Straatsma, Reed Dingman and Wallace Steffensen) and two have received Special Achievement awards from ASPS (Mark Gorney and Ralph Blocksma).
We are proud of our history and our heritage of excellence in plastic surgery training. Grand Rapids has been and continues to be one of the leading centers in the country for plastic surgery training and innovation.
Residents at the PGY-4 level participate in and teach an 8-week course in Plastic Surgery Anatomy. This course includes cadaveric dissections that are related to common procedures performed in Plastic Surgery, including fasciocutaneous and muscle flaps, head and neck dissections, hand and wrist dissections, cosmetic procedures, as well as trunk and lower extremity flaps and dissections. The PGY-4 residents complete the dissections overseen by a faculty mentor and then present their prosections to the plastic surgery section. This course solidifies and improves their anatomical knowledge.
All residents participate in microsurgical skills labs beginning at the PGY-1 level. Throughout the academic year, there are numerous microsurgical animal lab practice sessions with upper-level residents and faculty teaching and assisting lower-level residents. During the PGY-4 year, a one-week, intense micorsurgical course is taught by fellowship-trained microsurgeon faculty. Residents are free from all clinical responsibilities so as to maximize their training experience. This course and the practice sessions allow for early and exceptional microsurgical skills to optimize patient care.
Multiple skills labs are given through each academic year and include nerve dissection and repair, wrist kinematics and reconstruction, facial fracture reconstruction, and upper extremity splinting labs. These skills and simulation labs help to expand resident technique translating directly to the operating room and the wards.
With our emphasis on research, many of our residents graduate with multiple publications, including peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. We feel it is important to reward residents for their work, thus all travel expenses are covered for presentations of original research at local, state, national, and international meetings. To assist in your research, we have an efficient and robust research department with institutional and foundation funding options available.
A very unique component of our training involves participation in our resident-run academic trauma and cosmetic service. This service was built to give residents unsurpassed autonomy and hands-on training in running their own practice. Residents at the PGY-5 and 6 PGY-6 levels rotate on the service three months per year. With the oversight of a faculty mentor, the academic chief resident manages and maintains all inpatient and outpatient, clinic-based consults for the Plastic Surgery Service at Spectrum Health. This resident-run service cares for a diverse patient mix with strong emphasis on complex facial trauma, lower extremity and trunk reconstruction, body contouring, breast surgery, and upper extremity conditions. The resident, along with the faculty mentor run an office-based clinic for one and a half days each week. Although there is faculty supervision at all times, residents assume and guide the care of all patients, including operative plans, booking cases, and postoperative care. We feel this model maximizes resident autonomy, maintains continuity of care, develops key patient management skills, and builds practice management experience. This is truly a resident-run academic practice, unlike any in the country, and prepares our residents for practice in the real world.
Plastic Surgery Integrated Curriculum (13 four-week blocks)
Average five hours per week of protected time for high quality educational curriculum and include:
Our residency program is committed to the wellness of our residents and faculty. Being a physician is a higher calling and honorable profession. It can be extremely rewarding, yet emotionally and physically exhausting. Psychological, emotional and physical well-being are critical in the development of the competent, caring and resilient physician.
Here are a few examples of our culture!
Plastic surgery residents celebrating Halloween while learning about anatomy in the annual anatomy lab.
Wellness event in which the plastic surgery residents participated in a calming, instructional painting course. Some creative liberties were taken!
Ronald Ford, MD, (left) with current and former plastic surgery residents on the porch of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, MI reuniting for the 2021 MAPS Conference.
Grand Rapids has countless trails, parks and lakes to explore. Nina Livermore, MD (right) with her fiancé David (pediatrics resident) hiking and exploring a little further from "home" in Capitol Reef National Park.
Plastic surgery residents on their way to get a group lunch, getting cozy on the elevator!
All applications are accepted through the Electronic Residency Application Service. For application information, contact program coordinator, Sue Hartert by email or at 616.391.1909.
All visiting medical student applications must be submitted through the Visiting Student Learning Opportunities program. For more information on visiting medical student opportunities, visit our Visiting Learner page.
As the second largest city in Michigan, Grand Rapids is an amazing place to work, live, play and explore. This vibrant city is known for some of the best festivals in the world, like ArtPrize, and is only a short 45 minute drive to Lake Michigan. The city has been recognized by numerous sources, including The New York Times, where Grand Rapids was ranked as one of the 52 Places to Go. Additionally, Thrillist consider Grand Rapids the best food city in the state of Michigan, and in 2018, Trulia chose Grand Rapids as the Hottest Real Estate Market to Watch in the country. Grand Rapids is a city with endless experiences for people of every age.
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