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How To Choose The Right Surgeon For You

Dr Sawjin Tew

Surgeons establish practice in a geographic area based on their special interest. For example, within plastic surgery, there are subspecialties (for example burns surgery) that are only performed in certain tertiary referral centres in each state. The Northern Beaches’ nearest centre is Royal North Shore Hospital. 

Surgeons may also have a preference for either community practice or tertiary referral practice. Tertiary hospitals handle more complicated procedures, such as microsurgical reconstruction for trauma and cancer resection. 

Surgeons may balance public and private practice, because the case mix is different in both sectors. For instance, breast implants may be used for cosmetic purposes in the private hospitals, and for reconstructive purposes in the public hospitals. Abdominoplasty, liposuction and facelifts are confined to private hospitals. 

In contrast, complex reconstruction for facial and lower limb trauma, and head and neck cancer are handled at public hospitals where there are multidisciplinary teams. Some operations such as skin cancer resection and reconstruction are performed at both public and private hospitals.

In an emergency situation, patients do not always have choice of surgeon. The patient presents to the emergency department of the nearest hospital and care is coordinated based on an “on call” emergency roster set by the department of Plastic surgery at the hospital. This roster covers Plastic surgical care for facial and hand trauma.

In the training of surgeons, applicants go through a rigorous selection process, having had a background of working on surgical teams for at least three years. Then, the advanced training in plastic surgery is at least four years. On average, it takes about 8 to 10 years for a plastic surgeon to qualify. After that, the surgeon chooses a geographic area depending on the job opportunity at that time, such as a retiring surgeon or an expanding population, sets up practice, establishes rapport with local general practitioners, and gains further experience in practice. Over time, patients and referring doctors judge their surgeon, and the medical board also monitors every doctor in practice. 

Many factors contribute to the success of surgery, and when results do not meet expectations or when complications occur, which they sometimes do, the patients sometimes conclude that they weren’t looked after by the right surgeon, because these things would not have happen with the right surgeon. Would choosing the right surgeon ensure a desired outcome? There is no guarantee with any surgery, but a trusting doctor-patient relationship is essential. 

Plastic surgeon Dr Sawjin Tew has worked on the Northern Beaches since 2001 and has privileges at Manly District Hospital, Mona Vale Hospital, Warringah Day Surgery, Castlecrag Private Hospital and North Shore Private Hospital. Phone 94112266 or visit

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