SEATTLE, WA – Three months ago, fourth year medical student Trevor Barlock took a deep breath and submitted his applications to integrated plastic surgery programs around the country.
Barlock recalls the feeling. “It was a big moment for me,” he says. “Ever since I was a little boy I knew I wanted to be a plastic surgeon. I used to play pretend “botox injection” with my sister, and my mom still has some of the drawings I used to do of skin flaps. Everything I’ve done up until this point has been to prepare me for becoming a plastic surgeon.”
And indeed, Barlock’s resume is impressive. As an undergraduate, he started “Heart Lifts for the Homeless,” a non-profit organization that provided homeless derelicts with much-needed cosmetic upgrades.
And Barlock didn’t slow down when he got into medical school. He spent his first year attending classes remotely as he lived in Iraq and served as a coordinator for Iraqi natives disfigured by the war to receive reconstructive surgeries. While there, he just happened upon a potential blood marker for melanoma, which is currently pending approval by the FDA.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Barlock received invitations to interview at most of the programs to which he applied.
“He certainly had one of the most impressive applications we’ve seen to date,” says one residency admissions director.
But when Barlock started showing up for interviews, the mood changed drastically.
“I had butterflies in my stomach, I was so excited to meet him,” says another interviewer who would prefer not to be named, “but then I saw him and I remember thinking ‘Oh My God, he’s so ugly.’ I even threw up in my mouth a little.”
One by one, these ultra-competitive plastic surgery programs found themselves faced with an entirely new conundrum.
“On paper, he’s one of the most qualified applicants by far,” says one interviewer. “But on a physical level, he completely goes against everything we represent as a specialty. What kind of message is this going to give to our patients?”
“When he showed up, I kept telling myself ‘It’s ok, this is going to be fine.’ And while he was talking I was just thinking about the different procedures that we could possibly do – a nose job here, a forehead de-bulking there, but by the end I realized it was entirely hopeless. We are plastic surgeons, after all, not Gods except sometimes.”
When we last checked in, most programs were leaning in favor of putting Barlock pretty far down on their match lists.
“We had plenty of gorgeous candidates to choose from, it just didn’t feel right to put them beneath someone so hideous.”