What is a Plastic Surgeon?
There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about plastic surgery. This should come as no surprise to anyone who spends any time on google. Most of us have learned to filter what we read online by source, naturally giving more credibility to sources we recognize and trust.
In the plastic surgery world, it can sometimes be difficult to recognize a credible source, with every other doctor and para-professional claiming to be an expert on cosmetics and aging. So how should a patient go about researching plastic surgery while maintaining confidence that the information they are receiving is accurate and trustworthy? Let me offer a few insider tips about what makes a plastic surgeon…
1. There is no such thing as a “cosmetic surgeon.” Anyone with a medical degree can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon without any formal training. This sounds crazy and counterintuitive, but any “board certification” in cosmetic surgery is not real board certification- it is either a weekend course, or in many cases, simply a fee-based organization that allows you to pay your way to a title you didn’t earn. In my opinion, this is very clearly a deceptive practice, but unfortunately, there is virtually no regulation of these pseudo-boards in the United States.
2. There is only one AMERICAN BOARD OF PLASTIC SURGERY. The requirements for board certification in plastic surgery are extremely rigorous. There are only 6300 practicing plastic surgeons in the United States who are board certified in plastic surgery. If you want to know if your surgeon is on the list, here is the link for the American Board of Plastic Surgery. There is an application called “Is your Surgeon Certified” that allows you to enter your surgeons name and get an instant answer to this question.
In order to qualify to be on this list, a real plastic surgeon must meet the following criteria.
-A minimum of 6 years of post-medical school surgical training
-Passage of a written board exam that tests general knowledge of plastic surgery, as well as specific knowledge of cosmetic surgery, hand surgery, and craniofacial surgery.
-Passage of an oral board exam that requires the surgeon to keep meticulous records of every single patient that surgeon cares for over a period of 9 months. Those records are then submitted to the board and reviewed. 5 cases are selected, and the candidate surgeon is required to submit complete medical records on those 5 cases, including before/after photographs and all billing records. The records are carefully reviewed by the board, and the surgeon is then given an oral examination on those 5 cases, as well as a series of unknown cases, to prove to the board that s/he is a safe, ethical surgeon.
Board certification in plastic surgery is an arduous process that takes nearly a decade to complete. When you are selecting a plastic surgeon, there is no more important criteria than board certification in plastic surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
3. Many doctors who call themselves “plastic surgeons” have no formal training in plastic surgery. As outlined above, it takes many years of specialized training a series of grueling exams to become an actual plastic surgeon. Unfortunately, some practitioners who are trained in completely unrelated fields see plastic surgery as a way to make a quick buck. Instead of putting the time in to become truly proficient, they simply change their marketing strategy and offer procedures to patients in which they have no training. Your plastic surgeon should be trained in plastic surgery, not in obstetrics, internal medicine, anesthesia, or anything else. After all, would you let your plastic surgeon deliver your baby? I didn’t think so!
I hope this post helps to illuminate what you should look for in credible sources about plastic surgery. Now, back to your googling!