In practice for nearly 30 years, Joseph Serletti, MD, FACS, chief of Plastic Surgery at Penn Medicine, sees cosmetic surgery patients for a wide range of reasons: Breast augmentations, facelifts, and sometimes to adjust another surgeon’s work if the procedure didn’t turn out the way a patient had hoped.
His motivation is simple. “I want to take care of people,” says Dr. Serletti, whose father was an orthopedic surgeon and whose mother was a nurse. “To see my patients’ personal satisfaction and happiness is incredibly rewarding.”
Dr. Serletti also enjoys the opportunity to work with patients of all different ages and on different parts of the body: “On any given day, I can be operating on the head and neck region, the chest, or somewhere else. Plastic surgeons are probably the last true general surgeon.”
During his surgical fellowship at Johns Hopkins University, he says he realized that when surgeons needed assistance, they always consulted with a plastic surgeon.
“Plastic surgeons became the surgeon’s surgeon,” he says, adding, “Today, it’s still true. We operate all over the body: head and neck, abdominal wall, lower extremity, chest.”
Bringing creativity and collaboration to Penn Medicine
Regardless of where he’s operating, the technical challenge motivates Dr. Serletti. The team at Penn Medicine does, too.
“It’s an incredible institution that’s incredibly supportive of anyone who wants to grow their program,” he says.
When he joined Penn 12 years ago, he was the eighth faculty person in plastic surgery. Now, he’s one of 19. He went from doing 30 microsurgical procedures a year to more than 700 a year.
For Dr. Serletti, cosmetic surgery is a creative process—one that he works to preserve every day. He starts his mornings with a workout, in part to preserve his creative energy.
“Even though we’re incredibly busy and this job tends to be a seven days a week, 24/7 role, I still find time for activities outside of medicine. People need to take a break from whatever they’re passionate about because if you don’t, your creative energy deteriorates. That’s the first thing that goes,” he says.
Additionally, Dr. Serletti’s colleagues and current surgical trainees keep him inspired. Because Penn is one of the top-ranked residency and medical schools in the country, he says, “I’m constantly surrounded by young people who are dedicated to and excited about the future of plastic surgery. We’re training the next leaders. It’s fun, but it’s also our responsibility.”
View Dr. Serletti's clinical profile