Utah No. 8 in the U.S. in numbers of plastic surgeons per capita

Utah No. 8 in the U.S. in numbers of plastic surgeons per capita

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah has the eighth-highest number of plastic surgeons per capita in the United States, according to an analysis of 2010 statistics.

The District of Columbia has the highest number of surgeons per capita, with Maryland in second place, Florida in third, New York in fourth and California in fifth. The other states rounding out the top 10 are Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii and Delaware.

The numbers used to calculate the ratios were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Board of Medical Specialties. The Census Bureau’s website provides the most recent population counts for each state (2010), and the ABMS publishes a booklet each year that breaks down the numbers of doctors board certified in each medical specialty in each state.

In any state, other doctors in a variety of specialties may be performing some types of plastic surgery, namely cosmetic procedures, but it is difficult to assess exactly how many because it is not necessary for them to be board certified in plastic surgery to perform these aesthetic procedures.

In the District of Columbia, there is one plastic surgeon for every 27,351 residents; in Utah there is one plastic surgeon for every 46,064 residents. Florida has one surgeon for every 39,416 residents, New York one for every 39,791 residents and California one to every 42,286 residents.

Plastic surgeons data:
State No. of board-certified plastic surgeons (2010) Population (2010) Ratio (population to surgeons)
  • District of Columbia: 22 /601,723 = 27,351: 1
  • Maryland: 157 /5,773,552 = 36,774: 1
  • Florida: 477 /18,801,310 = 39,416: 1
  • New York: 487 /19,378,102 = 39,791: 1
  • California: 881/37,253,956 = 42,286: 1
  • Maryland: 149 /6,547,629 = 43,944: 1
  • New Jersey: 191 /8,791,894 = 46,031: 1
  • Utah: 60 /2,763,885 = 46,064: 1
  • Hawaii: 29 /1,360,301 = 46,907: 1
  • Delaware: 19 /897,934 = 47,260: 1

Statistics are available through several national organizations, such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, that compare numbers and types of cosmetic procedures done across the United States, and although the numbers are broken down by region, no statistics are available that break down the numbers of procedures by state.

Breast augmentation was the most frequently performed cosmetic surgery in 2010, with 296,000 procedures done nationwide, according to the ASPS. Again, the society does not keep track of how many of these are done state by state, but 38 percent of these procedures were done in the western region that includes Utah and also Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.

Two companies provide the implants used in breast augmentation procedures — Allergan and Mentor. However, representatives from these companies said they do not release their sales figures.

Looking at the numbers of board-certified plastic surgeons state to state, therefore, seems to be one of the only ways to get a snapshot of how many patients are having plastic surgery state to state.

Plastic surgeons in Utah spoke of several reasons for their relatively high numbers per capita.

Dr. Grant Fairbanks is the president of the Utah State Plastic Surgery Society, a group of board-certified plastic surgeons in Utah. He said, “The number of plastic surgeons per capita is a bit high. There are a couple of reasons for it. One reason is it’s a nice place to live. You also understand there is the culture. There are a lot of Mormon boys (doctors from Utah) who want to come back (to live after medical training).”

Fairbanks, who is LDS and from Salt Lake City, said also that those who are not members of the LDS Church or originally from Utah come to the state to train and find that they like the area. “There’s a great climate, they can go skiing, they can go boating, they’ve got soccer, symphony — a lot of people like living here,” he said. “Others come here because they’re being recruited by the University of Utah or IHC or the other medical clinics.”

Dr. Brian Brzowski, a board-certified plastic surgeon based in Ogden, agrees that Utah is an attractive place in which to settle. He said with “the low cost of living and great weather, (the area is) a great place to raise your family.”

The people here aren't doing it for vanity; they're doing it in their minds to restore things, almost to the extent that it's kind of a type of reconstructive procedure.

–Brian Brzowski

Brzowski, who is not LDS nor from Utah, also observed that there is a plastic surgery training program in Salt Lake City, whereas there isn’t a training program in every major metropolitan area. “The tendency is for people to stay where they’ve done their training,” he said. “It’s comfortable to stay in the area.”

At the same time, both doctors agree that a patient population must exist to be able to sustain the number of doctors practicing here. Without enough patients, doctors would not be able to stay in Utah. Brzowski’s practice is almost 100 percent cosmetic procedures, he said, while Fairbanks performs a wide variety of plastic surgeries, from elective, cosmetic procedures to reconstruction.

Fairbanks and Brzowski both noted that the patient population in Utah tends to be well educated and open to the idea of having cosmetic procedures performed.

“Most of my patients are fairly well educated,” Fairbanks said. “I want to say they’re coming in for a fairly sophisticated procedure like a facelift, tummy tuck, body lift. They’re really trying to ‘refine’ themselves.”

“It’s an educated, intellectual populace,” Brzowski said. “This is one of the more ‘wired’ areas in the country (when it comes to media and internet). So as a consequence, people here are a little more worldly, more educated and intellectual. The workforce here is a very sharp, educated workforce. I think that perspective just broadens the horizons to the point that the community is open to the idea (of aesthetic surgeries).”

Brzowski said the higher birth rate in Utah also contributes to the number of cosmetic procedures done here. Utah has the highest birth rate in the United States, as of the latest figures from 2008, according to Statehealthfacts.org, run by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“There are effects on the body; those primarily affect the breast and abdomen,” Brzowski said. “Having the high number of pregnancies and a high amount of people here accepting of surgery” leads to more procedures.

Both doctors said these particular patients are conservative in their approach to surgery, whether they be LDS or non-LDS. Fairbanks said, “They just want to look like they used to when they were younger, maybe a little larger, more proportional, they want to look nicer in their evening gown; they do not want to look like they’ve had surgery.”

“The people here aren’t doing it for vanity; they’re doing it in their minds to restore things, almost to the extent that it’s kind of a type of reconstructive procedure,” Brzowski said.

Fairbanks said, “When I see the population in my office, and having seen it in Pennsylvania and Indiana (during medical training), I personally do not believe that we (in Utah) are any different than the rest of the country.”

Brzowski noted that the “strong community that’s definitely a hallmark of Utah, the (LDS) Church, plays a role” in the numbers of procedures being done here. “Patients who have a positive experience with plastic surgery, with such a good community, they share and spread that information. You learn from your neighbor, 'Oh, my gosh, this problem I had was taken care of; it works.' The word spreads faster than a lot of other spots.”

“I think it fits in with the (culture’s idea of) taking care of yourself,” Brzowski said. “That to me is absolutely the answer and the explanation for why such a devout group of people here are so accepting of plastic surgery. They’re doing it for appropriate reasons, not for some vulgar type of motivation.”

Cathy Carmode Lim is the founder of RatedReads.com, a website that reviews books and gives them ratings according to content.

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