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The History of Plastic Surgery

When most of us think of plastic surgery, our minds invariably and immediately turn to facelifts, tummy tucks, liposuction, and breast enhancements. We tend to think of plastic surgery as part of the modern world, and of a culture obsessed with appearances. While it’s true that the 20th century saw great advances in both the art and the science of plastic surgery, it may surprise you to learn that plastic surgery is neither a modern, nor a western invention. In fact, the first plastic surgeon was probably from either India or Egypt, and would have been practicing the craft in the neighborhood of 4000 years ago.

Early plastic surgery was likely to have been almost exclusively reconstructive in nature, as opposed to the often aesthetic focus of modern plastic surgery. War and injury have always been close companions of humanity, and part of the brief of early medical practitioners was to repair the damage caused by both. While there was likely no such thing as a specialist plastic surgeon at the time, reliable written records provide evidence of procedures as complex as skin grafting as early as 800 BC.

Modern plastic surgery is the branch of medicine concerned with repairing damage to the form and function of the human body. The cosmetic and aesthetic aspects of plastic surgery are a relatively recent development — even considering the popularity of purely cosmetic procedures in our current culture, the vast majority of plastic surgery today is reconstructive rather than aesthetic.
It was this more original purpose of plastic surgery that prompted Dr. Liu to study medicine and become a plastic surgeon in the first place. He was drawn to the discipline by a desire to help people by restoring lost form and function, whether due to injury, disease, or for any other reason.

For much of his medical education, and most of his early career, Dr. Liu was focused on learning, and performing research into the techniques of reconstructive plastic surgery. His extensive work with breast reconstructive surgery, in particular for women recovering from breast cancer, is a perfect example of the restoration of form. His training in head and neck reconstructive techniques speaks to his dedication to the restoration of function.

Indeed, Dr. Liu knows very well that the line dividing form and function is a very blurry one. As anyone who has ever felt self-conscious about their appearance can tell you, dissatisfaction with one’s form almost always produces a loss of function, usually in the form of a lowered quality of life. Even when providing purely cosmetic services, Dr. Liu is one plastic surgeon who is perfectly well aware of the impact these services can have on a person’s life.