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Authors > James Chang, MD

“…we have much to learn from authors and doctors all around the world, so this book puts together that international experience into one textbook.” – Dr. James Chang

Discovering What Plastic Surgery Offers

Growing up, I was interested in the sciences, and medicine seemed to be a good way of balancing those interests with the ability to help people. My family is very interested in travelling, so I also felt that it would allow me the opportunity to do some work that was applicable overseas. In my first year in medical school at Yale, we were invited to review textbooks for the Yale Journal. I rummaged around the basement and found a two-volume plastic surgery textbook. I took those two volumes home and flipped through all the pages and got a sense of what plastic surgeons really do. I think a lot of medical students don’t really know what plastic surgery offers.

During residency, I became very interested in hand surgery, and the majority of my practice is related to hand surgery and microsurgery where we transplant body parts from one part of the body to another. Within hand surgery, I’m very interested in operating on children. I’m interested in flexor-tendon injuries, which are specific injuries to the tendons that allow you to move your fingers, nerve cases, as well as bone work. In hand surgery we’re able to operate on all types of tissues—from bone to skin to nerves to tendons.

Understanding Children as Patients

Children are very interesting. You have to develop rapport with a child in order to elicit certain physical signs of what they have going on. Sometimes you’ll play with a child for awhile and be comfortable with the child before getting the right diagnosis and treatment. You have to work with parents, and what I say is “Listen, I’m a parent too, so I know what you’re going through.” I try to treat their children like they were my children, and that really relaxes the parents. They also have these congenital problems that they can very well adapt to, and it’s really heartening to see them come back, with surgery or without surgery, but doing very well.

Being A ‘Finisher’

There are lots of people who love to start a project but may not be finishers. Every volume editor is a finisher. The Hand and Upper Extremity volume assignment  was an intimidating task because my mentor, Rod Hentz, edited the previous volume, and it was a beautiful piece of work. My job was to see if there was any area where we could tweak and renew and refresh. Becoming an editor of this book is a tremendous honor. It really allowed me to not only show what hand surgery is, but also enabled me to learn all of hand surgery again. It also allowed me to put my stamp on what I think hand surgery should be.

The Expert Consult Experience

My residents showed me the book on Expert Consult. I was a bit skeptical about how it worked, but my residents showed me that once they scratch off that code and upload it, it’s what they use on a day-to-day basis. They love having the books on their shelf and to refer to, but on a day-to-day basis they’ll go through Expert Consult, pull up an article and watch a video of the operation, which is truly unique.


James Chang, MD is currently Professor and Chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Stanford University. Dr. Chang graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences with joint degrees in Biology and Economics. Following this, he graduated from Yale Medical School with Alpha Omega Alpha and Cum Laude honors.  From 1991 to 1993, he was a Sarnoff Laboratory Research Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.  He then completed a residency in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Stanford University Medical Center.  Dr. Chang was a Clinical Instructor in Orthopedic Surgery and the Hand & Microsurgery Fellow at U.C.L.A. Medical Center from 1999-2000.  He is currently Professor of Plastic Surgery and Orthopedic Surgery at Stanford University Medical Center.  He is also an Attending Surgeon at Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital and the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, where he serves as Director of the Plastic and Hand Surgery Laboratory.

Dr. Chang’s basic science research interests include modulation of Transforming Growth Factor-Beta in scarless flexor tendon wound healing and tissue engineered flexor tendon grafts for hand reconstruction. He has expertise in molecular biology and tissue engineering techniques and their applications to plastic and hand surgery research. Dr. Chang is the recipient of numerous grants including two recent multi-year Federal Merit Review Awards on “Tissue Engineered Flexor Tendon Grafts for Extremity Reconstruction” and “Optimization of Bioengineered Tendons Using Bioreactors and Stem Cells”.

Dr. Chang is an editor of Plastic Surgery, 3rd Edition and Tendon Surgery of the HandHe is also the past editor-in-chief of the Yearbook of Hand Surgery and an associate editor for the journals, Journal of Hand Surgery, Annals of Plastic Surgery, Hand, and Microsurgery.  He was the Royal College of Surgeons Foundation traveling fellow and was awarded the 2006 Sterling Bunnell Traveling Fellowship by the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.  He was Research Director for the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) and managed the grant portfolio and programs of this national organization.  He is currently Treasurer for the ASSH.  Dr. Chang is a member of the Plastic Surgery Residency Review Committee of the ACGME and the American Board of Plastic Surgery.  He was elected to the American Surgical Association in 2010.

Dr. Chang’s main surgical interests are in reconstructive surgery of the hand and extremities including microsurgical reconstruction. He also has interest in pediatric hand and microsurgery, post-oncologic head and neck reconstruction, and lower extremity reconstruction.

Related Authors: Peter C. Neligan, MB,FRCS(I), FRCSC, FACSGeoffrey Gurtner, MD FACSRichard Warren, MD; Eduardo D. Rodriguez, MD, DDSJoseph E. Losee, MD, FACS, FAAPDavid H. Song, MDJames C. Grotting, MDAllen L. Van Beek, MD, FACS