A Surgeon’s Legacy

Dr. Grotting teaching group of former Fellow patients

Dr. Grotting teaching group of former Fellow patients

From across the globe to at home in Birmingham, plastic surgeon Dr. James C. Grotting has made his mark in the medical field.

By Lauren Lockhart


Every doctor has a story. A story peppered with specific moments—some powerful, some seemingly insignificant—that ultimately drive a doctor towards his chosen medical field. Says Dr. James C. Grotting, renowned plastic surgeon and founder of his private practice here in Birmingham, “My story is perhaps a little bit different.”

He explains, “I grew up in the 50s, a time when there weren’t many people who even knew what plastic surgery was.” In fact, it was Dr. Grotting’s father who served as the first plastic surgeon in his hometown of Minneapolis, MN.

“My father got interested in plastic surgery after seeing a lot of facially-injured soldiers in WWII [while] stationed in Paris. He was in a hospital there seeing a lot of combatants from the Battle of the Bulge and the European Theatre,” says Grotting.

“Unfortunately, he died when I was only 16 years old, so I never really knew him much as a plastic surgeon,” he continues.

Still, with a family history rooted in the field of plastic surgery, most would assume that entering into the field was an expected career path for Dr. Grotting. Most would be wrong.

“I tried every which way to not become a plastic surgeon,” he laughs. “You want to make your own decisions. You don’t want to be accused of not being able to think for yourself.”

However, as he developed training in general surgery and microsurgery, Dr. Grotting found plastic surgery to be the next natural step in his training, and he started his plastic surgery residency at the University of California in San Francisco.

Then, in the mid 1980s, opportunity struck—the opportunity to move cross-country to Birmingham, AL and help start the division of plastic surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“I moved to Birmingham thinking I was only going to be here for two or three years, and 28 years later, I’m still here,” he smiles.

Dr. Grotting with textbook "Reoperative Aesthetic and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery"

Dr. Grotting with textbook “Reoperative Aesthetic and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery”

“Birmingham has been a wonderful place for me and my family,” he continues. “We’ve had every opportunity to go elsewhere, and we’ve never felt there was a place we would prefer over right here in Birmingham.”

Dr. Grotting now owns his practice, Grotting Plastic Surgery, where he specializes in elective aesthetic procedures, specifically facial plastic surgery and both aesthetic and reconstructive breast surgery. Dr. Grotting’s lasting success as a plastic surgeon stems from his passion for continually progressing the discipline through education. As the current international traveling professor for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), Dr. Grotting routinely travels the globe to teach advances in plastic surgery to his international colleagues. His travels have not only trained others within the profession, but they have also broadened his expertise in plastic surgery on a worldwide scale.

“Just this year, I lectured on plastic surgery in St. Petersburg, Russia and did live surgery in Cologne, Germany,” says Grotting about his work in plastic surgery education. “It’s just been a lifelong interest…a passion that I’ve had for many years.”

Dr. Grotting has furthered his goal to educate the plastic surgery community by authoring several books on the specialty. His first book, Reoperative Aesthetic and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, was published in 1995, followed by a second edition in 2006. He has since written five more books, with his most recent work serving as part of a major six-volume textbook and subsequently receiving the award for the best surgical textbook of the year by the British Medical Association.

But his work doesn’t stop there. With a heart for international service work, Dr. Grotting had always aspired to use his skills charitably. As a young doctor, he was approached by a friend about a mission trip with Operation Smile, the international nonprofit that repairs cleft lips and cleft palates in children.

“I was a young plastic surgeon just starting out in my career, and I thought ‘Well, that’s something that I’ll do later on when I’m more established’,” Grotting says.

But his friend persisted, and before long, Dr. Grotting found his own passion for service steering him towards Naga City in the Philippines right before Christmas that year.

Dr. Grotting with a patient on an Operation Smile Mission in the Philippines

Dr. Grotting with a patient on an Operation Smile mission in the Philippines

“We saw hundreds of kids…who would have had no opportunity to have repairs done,” explains Dr. Grotting of his first trip in 1987. “We were there two weeks, and we saw 500 kids and did 199 operations.”

“But there were kids who didn’t have the opportunity to get repaired at that time,” he continues. “So I went back the next year.” Dr. Grotting estimates that he has since made 16-17 trips worldwide to bring smiles to children born with facial deformities.

“I’ve gotten letters from children who have gone on to graduate from college and become successful businessmen and get married,” says Grotting. “You’re completely changing not only the life of the child, but it changes the lives of their entire families.”


As a young adult, Dr. Grotting wanted to carve his own path, to not merely be known as the son of a plastic surgeon. Now, the doctor leads an influential and fulfilling career attributable to his own ambition, yet still inspired by his father’s work.

“I oftentimes think about how he would be astonished at how the specialty has changed, and all the new things we can do that really couldn’t be done at that time,” says Grotting, who is proud to be an instrumental figure in the ever-evolving discipline.

“At times, [it seemed] only the rich and famous had access to plastic surgery. But now, people of all different walks of life and economic classes are able to benefit from aesthetic plastic surgery.”

As the field continues to evolve, Dr. Grotting will continue to educate, inspire, and serve, leaving his personal legacy in premier plastic surgery.



Red Sponsored Content Asterisk This story is sponsored by Grotting Plastic Surgery. To learn more about Dr. James C. Grotting and his practice, visit his website.

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One Response to “A Surgeon’s Legacy”

  1. Mary Ankersen says:

    Dear Dr. Grotting,

    Please help me determine if my husband could benefit from a consultation with you. He underwent prostatectomy in the early 90’s and subsequently developed a large incisional hernia, later had a hernia repair with mesh that became infected and had to be removed. After that he sustained abdominal trauma after a head on collision with a semi. He hydroplaned on the interstate. He had dead bowel and underwent resection and some repair of the ventral hernia.
    At present he has a large, protruding hernia that extends from about 3-5 inches below his xiphoid to his symphysis.
    He developed a clot after his trauma in his right leg that included his entire leg. He was placed on Coumadin for 6 months and has had no problems since. He’s 5’11 and his weight is 250 lbs. he has diabetes, hypertension,had some transient renal insufficiency following his trauma. I acknowledge that he would be a challenging surgical candidate but if you would be interested please let me know. We live in mobile, al. but we have a daughter living in b’ham. I must admit I have some concerns about seeking a surgeon out of town due to his predilection of developing complications and if you have any suggestions for someone locally I would be open to that as well.

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