Mary O’Brien has been named the first ever female president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), marking a new chapter for the respected, but previously male dominated, organisation.

 Despite the fact that 90-92% of people having cosmetic surgery in the last 15 years have been women, BAAPS – the UK’s only organisation solely dedicated to advancing safety, education, innovation and excellence in cosmetic surgery – has always been led by men, a trend reflected across all surgical specialties.

According to UCAS in 2016, 58% of people accepted into medicine and dentistry training are women, but in that year only 11.1% made up consultant surgeons in England.  This means that, while plenty of women are training in medicine, the number going on to become consultant surgeons is still low.

 Figures from the Royal College of Surgeons2 show that, between 1991 and 2020 the number of consultants who are female has risen from 3% to 13.2%. Women are now represented in all 10 surgical specialties and at all levels within a surgical career. Plastic surgery has the second highest female representation of approximately 21% (the first being paediatrics).

 BAAPS is always exploring ways to promote plastic surgery as a specialty and make the training pathway supportive of all trainees regardless of gender and the appointment of Miss O’Brien solidifies this.

 Commenting on her new role and what it will entail Miss O’Brien says, “I remain in full-time NHS reconstructive plastic and hand surgery practice, while spending some of my time working with a fantastically motivated group of plastic surgeons elected by the association membership who form the Council. My role is to chair the council meetings and coordinate the association’s activities.”

She goes on to comment, “I am very grateful to many mentors both male and female who helped me to pursue a career that I love. Plastic Surgeons are not defined by their gender but rather their training and skill set. I hope to be able to continue to contribute to training future generations of plastic surgeons in this fulfilling career. With regard to the BAAPS, it is an association that primarily treats female patients. I hope that a professional female perspective will provide a healthy balance and contribution to its leadership.”

 Leading BAAPS is an exciting new challenge for O’Brien, who as the figurehead of the association will continue to spearhead its mission to promote safety and tighter regulation within the sector. One of her main concerns is the “trivialisation” and “glamorisation” of both surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. She says, “Cosmetic tourism, unscrupulous advertising and marketing, irresponsible agencies that sell surgery targeting vulnerable groups, and the promotion of unrealistic expectations all concern me.  We live in a society that increasingly connects via a virtual world, and Instagram posts don’t always represent reality!”

“Aesthetic surgery in itself aims to address a specific issue and with it promote psychological and physical wellbeing, so that patients can move on with their lives from focusing on a physical aspect of their body that psychologically distresses them. This can only be achieved with appropriate patient selection and a clear understanding of realistic expectations of surgery and postoperative rehabilitation.”