Background: There is an increased push for plastic surgery units in the United States to become independent departments administered autonomously rather than as divisions of a multispecialty surgery department. The purpose of this research was to determine whether there are any quantifiable differences in the academic performance of departments versus divisions. Methods: Using a list of the plastic surgery units affiliated with the American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons, unit Web sites were queried for departmental status and to obtain a list of affiliated faculty. Academic productivity was then quantified using the SCOPUS database. National Institutes of Health funding was determined through the Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools database. Results: Plastic surgery departments were comparable to divisions in academic productivity, evidenced by a similar number of publications per faculty (38.9 versus 38.7; p = 0.94), number of citations per faculty (692 versus 761; p = 0.64), H-indices (9.9 versus 9.9; p = 0.99), and National Institutes of Health grants (3.25 versus 2.84; p = 0.80), including RO1 grants (1.33 versus 0.84; p = 0.53). There was a trend for departments to have a more equitable male-to-female ratio (2.8 versus 4.1; p = 0.06), and departments trained a greater number of integrated plastic surgery residents (9.0 versus 5.28; p = 0.03). Conclusion: This study demonstrates that the academic performance of independent plastic surgery departments is generally similar to divisions, but with nuanced distinctions.
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