Chairs and chiefs of plastic surgery: Is it an insider job?

Neil Tanna, Steven M. Levine, P. Niclas Broer, Patrick L. Reavey, Katie E. Weichman, Jason Roostaeian, Brian T. Andrews, Oren Z. Lerman, Pierre B. Saadeh, Jamie P. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose: There is no more important decision an academic Plastic Surgery Department or Division can make than naming a chair or chief. Externally recruited leadership brings fresh perspectives and connections. Critics, however, argue that they lack the in-depth knowledge of the institution's culture and history that may be needed to succeed. The ability and skill of an internal candidate is already known and can increase the odds of that person's success in the leadership position. Finally, external recruitment can be a more costly process. Ultimately, the decision is really a litmus test for a Plastic Surgery program. The authors aim to evaluate factors influencing ascent in Plastic Surgery leadership, including training history, internal promotion, and external recruiting. Methods: All Plastic Surgery residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education were noted (n = 71). Academic departmental chairs or divisional chiefs of these residency programs were identified at the time of study design (October 1, 2011). For each chair or chief, gender, training history, and faculty appointment immediately prior to the current leadership position was recorded. Results: There were 71 academic chairs or chiefs of Plastic Surgery residency programs at the time of data collection. The majority (62%) had done fellowship training following Plastic Surgery residency. Fellowships included hand (43%), craniofacial (29%), microsurgery (18%), and other types (10%). The majority (73%) of leaders were internal hires (P < 0.01), having faculty appointments at their institutions prior to promotion. However, only a fraction (22%) of these internal hires had done Plastic Surgery residency or fellowship training at that institution (P < 0.01). External recruits consisted of 27% of all 71 academic hires (P < 0.01). Conclusions: Many factors influence the decision to recruit leadership from internally or to hire an external candidate. These include the time to fill the position, program culture, candidate experience, and cost. These results support that the insider/outsider hire decision is ultimately one of duality. That dichotomy is achieved with an emphasis on internal promotion, but always with an eye towards the advantages of bringing in external talent as a valuable contribution to increase organizational success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1146-1148
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Craniofacial Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Chair
  • academic
  • chief
  • plastic surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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