May 28, 2016 by
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In 2008, Maria Siemionow led a team of surgeons in a 22-hour surgery to replace the face of gunshot victim Connie Culp. This near-total face transplant was the first surgery of its kind in the United States, and Siemionow says it was one of the most stressful times in her life. Not only was she in charge of delegating responsibilities to a handful of surgeons, she was also attempting to do a procedure on a living person that had previously been done on cadavers only. Siemionow says she was subconsciously thinking about the patient’s family and the rescue plan, if the surgery were to take a bad turn. “We were working for an unknown outcome,” she says.
But after connecting the arteries and veins of the donor’s face with Culp’s own, the new face “pinked up” – a sign to the transplant team that the surgery was working. It was a groundbreaking moment. Still, Siemionow says: “In the surgical specialty, there’s stress around the corner all the time, and you have to be prepared for that.”
Prospective surgeons should understand the gravity of the job they’re undertaking, but a sense of humor might be an imperative trait, too. When asked what first drew her to microsurgery – a surgery specialty that requires the use of an operating microscope – Siemionow gives a two-fold answer that shows both her seriousness and her sense of humor: First, it’s a good place to learn a lot. If someone has mastered the art of sewing and suturing arteries and veins under magnification, then he or she is skilled enough to sew and suture larger arteries and veins that don’t require microscopes. Second, it was the cool thing to do. “When I was finishing medical school, it was a popular field – it was generally the cool thing to do at the time,” she says. “Today, people are talking about in vitro fertilization and stem cell therapies – that’s the cool of now. [Back then,] if you were interested in surgery, you did microsurgery.”
Nowadays, these professionals can train toward becoming general surgeons, or they can choose a specialization, such as orthopedic, neurological, cardiovascular and plastic surgery. But all of these types of surgeons operate on patients that suffer from injuries, diseases or deformities. The BLS predicts that this profession will grow by 20 percent from 2014 to 2024, resulting in 9,100 new jobs. Aging baby boomers who might require extended and comprehensive medical procedures will precipitate the expected growth of jobs.
$187,199 Median Salary
0.4% Unemployment Rate
9,100 Number of Jobs