The importance of plastic surgery

Aurora Almadori, consultant plastic surgeon at Cadogan Clinic, on her career in plastic surgery and her mission to bring intimate regenerative plastic surgery to FGM survivors and women with childbirth problems

People 25 Jun 2024

Aurora Almadori

Can you tell us about your background and how it led to you becoming a plastic surgeon?

I went to medical school in Italy where I obtained a MBBS in Medicine and Surgery and a MSc in Migrant Health. In the UK I obtained another MSc and a PhD in Regenerative Surgery for the treatment of skin fibrosis and scarring. I travelled across the globe, studying in France, Brazil, the UK and the USA so I could learn and specialise in areas that I knew could teach me a lot. Training in all these different countries helped me find my way to regenerative surgery and stem cell-based treatments.

You specialise in regenerative surgery and stem cell-based treatments. What inspired this career focus?

During my final years at medical school I came across some interventions involving stem cells and I loved learning about the impressive results that can be achieved from this minimally invasive approach. Stem cell-based treatments are able to improve the extracellular matrix (the structure that keeps cells together), improve the skin quality, increase angiogenesis, and reduce inflammation.

Aurora Almadori, consultant plastic surgeon at Cadogan Clinic
Aurora Almadori, consultant plastic surgeon at Cadogan Clinic

You are recognised for your valuable contribution in reconstructive surgery for female genital mutilation (FGM) survivors. Do you believe the UK and the NHS are doing enough to support and treat FGM survivors?

I became involved in FGM survivors charities and organisations back in medical school – it was a big reason as to why I decided to specialise in vulval reconstruction. We realised that nothing was done to manage the scar that FGM survivors are often left with, so we pioneered the application of regenerative surgery in FGM-related vulval scars.

In the UK, FGM is well addressed with over 20 specialist clinics across the country, good laws in place to protect women, and a thorough FGM screening process. There are also some interventions available through the NHS. However, the NHS doesn’t offer reconstructive surgery, such as clitoral reconstruction or labia minora reconstruction. This is because of the lack of good-quality evidence, despite other countries offering these treatments.

In terms of diversity and funding, do you think the UK healthcare system offers all equal treatment? If not, what do you think needs to be done to prevent medical discrimination?

I believe medical discrimination and inequality is a big issue everywhere. We know that women’s health is under-researched and under-funded globally. A lot of the time, women feel dismissed or invalidated by the healthcare system, so they stop visiting their doctor. For instance, often women with lichen sclerosus are not properly diagnosed as this condition is not well known among the healthcare providers. This leads to a lot of women’s health concerns going unchecked.

Another example is the childbirth experience and the physical damages this can cause to a woman, particularly during their first childbirth. The scar and the pain a woman is left to deal with often is not taken seriously enough by healthcare professionals. In the UK, there has been a recent parliamentary report about birth trauma and delivery. The report goes into detail about how women are treated during and after childbirth and includes voices from women and mothers who have been through traumatising birth experiences. The report uses the word “devastating” to paint a picture of maternity care.

We have a very long way to go before the healthcare system can be seen as fair for everyone seeking treatment. I believe if we encourage healthy communication between patients and doctors then we are one step further to closing the gap.

Aurora is recognised for her valuable contribution in reconstructive surgery for FGM survivors
Aurora is recognised for her valuable contribution in reconstructive surgery for FGM survivors

What impact, if any, has being a woman had on your career?

I have gone through tough moments in my career, particularly in my first few years of my surgical training as it was a heavily male-dominated environment. However, I am an optimist by nature, and I believe that the challenges I have faced have resulted in me developing useful skills.

What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in regenerative plastic surgery?

My advice for those looking to get into this profession is firstly to get informed and inspired from the best. A great way to do this is by attending conferences and creating a network – there are lots of brilliant scientific societies organising regular meetings that encourage people to come along. These conferences will help you gain exposure to colleagues who have a wealth of experience and knowledge.

I also think it is important to find yourself a mentor to have the right guidance in this field.