While most women interested in cosmetic surgery do not have a gender preference when choosing a surgeon, more than one-quarter do have a preference. And those that do have a gender preference overwhelmingly prefer a female surgeon, according to a new study.
A private practice with a female plastic surgeon and male plastic surgeon (closely matched in training, experience and reputation) did a prospective study, surveying 200 consecutive patients. The patients called for consultations and two patient coordinators fielded the calls, asking for and documenting callers’ gender preferences, ages and area of cosmetic surgery interest.
What Researchers Found
All 200 patients were women. While 46% indicated they had no gender preference, 26% requested a female surgeon and 1% requested a male.
The 27% remaining asked for a doctor by name, of whom 53.7% requested the male surgeon, a statistically insignificantly greater percentage.
Patients interested in body surgery were least likely to have a gender preference, with 16.67% asking for a female doctor. But nearly 25% of those interested in breast and face procedures preferred a female surgeon. Patients interested in genital procedures did not request either a male surgeon or the practice’s male surgeon by name, but half preferred a female surgeon and 16% asked for the female surgeon in the practice by name.
Insights to Gender Preference
Heather J. Furnas, M.D., study coauthor and the female surgeon of the Santa Rosa, Calif., practice, tells Cosmetic Surgery Times that she thought the results would reflect less gender preference.
“While I know some of my patients specifically want to see a woman, I didn’t think the percentage would be as high as 26%,” Dr. Furnas says.
Researchers have studied gender preferences in other medical specialties, but little such data was available in cosmetic surgery. Other studies suggest that women spend more time with patients and engage in a partnership-building style. In other words, they tend to show more concern and empathy, according to an American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) press release.
Gender in medicine also made the news lately when a study in JAMA suggested that elderly hospitalized patients were significantly less likely to die and be readmitted when they were treated by female vs male general internists.
Dr. Furnas says that cosmetic surgeons can use the data to combat gender preferences with marketing strategies.
“The male surgeon should focus on getting good reviews, since a surgeon’s reputation turned out to neutralize gender preference,” Dr. Furnas says. “They may also want to target the growing number of men interested in cosmetic procedures. The female surgeons may want to speak at women’s organizations and spotlight feminine parts of their lives, such as motherhood, online. When my kids were younger, my female patients loved that I took time off to drive on field trips.”
As for why all the patients who called the practice during the study period were female, Dr. Furnas says that wasn’t too surprising. According to ASAPS statistics, 90% of all cosmetic surgery patients are women, she says.
“So, we’re actually not too far from the national average. While some practices specialize in men, we do a lot of female-only procedures, such as breast augmentation and labiaplasty, and that attracts women to our practice,” Dr. Furnas says.
Today, 14% of practicing plastic surgeons are women, but more are on the way. According to ASAPS, 37% of current plastic surgery trainees are female.