The Potential Impact of COVID-19 on Aesthetic Fellowship Programs

Ann Plast Surg. 2021 Oct 7. doi: 10.1097/SAP.0000000000003018. Online ahead of print.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about immense change in health care. Surgical specialties in particular have had to make major adjustments because of the cancellation of nonemergent surgeries. Aesthetic surgery fellowships are uniquely affected because of the high number of elective cases and the length of the fellowship. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on current and upcoming aesthetic surgery fellows has not been studied.

Objective: The aim of this article was to study the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons-endorsed and nonendorsed aesthetic fellowship programs.

Methods: A 23-question anonymous web-based survey was sent to aesthetic surgery fellowship directors with an active program in the United States. Surveys were collected from April 18, 2020, through May 14, 2020, with Qualtrics and then analyzed with Microsoft Excel. A 7-question follow-up survey was sent to directors, and a 23-question survey was sent to aesthetic surgery fellows. Data for these surveys were collected from June 6, 2020, through August 18, 2020. The surveys asked questions pertaining to adjustments and impact on current fellow training, as well as possible impact on fellows starting in 2020 and 2021.

Results: There was a 65.5% (19 of 29) response rate for the initial director survey, a 31% (9 of 29) rate for the director follow up survey, and a 28% (9 of 32) rate for the fellow-specific survey. All directors and fellows reported that the pandemic had some impact on aesthetic fellow training. A total of 5.3% of directors reported that they believe COVID-19 would have a "significant impact" on their fellows becoming well-trained aesthetic surgeons, whereas 66.7% of fellows reported that it will have a "mild impact." Predicted impact on future fellows was not as significant.

Conclusion: Telemedicine, educational efforts, and standardization of guidelines can be increased to minimize loss of training due to COVID-19. Ongoing evaluation and shared experiences can assist fellowships in customizing programs to provide well-rounded education during the pandemic.