CHOOSING A PLASTIC SURGEON
28 May 2014

CHOOSING A PLASTIC SURGEON

Finding a good plastic surgeon is much more difficult than choosing a name from a list!  Whether it’s a billboard or a television program – beware of advertising and check credentials!

A “board certified cosmetic surgeon” may have had no surgical education whatsoever. Most patients are surprised to find out that any licensed physician, even if they have not completed a surgical residency or board certification, can legally claim to be a cosmetic surgeon. Any licensed physician can also legally perform surgery in their office, even if they have not completed a surgery residency or board certification.  These physicians will not typically have privileges to perform cosmetic surgery in an accredited hospital or hospital affiliated surgical center, which is why this is one way to check your doctor.  A typical plastic surgeon has had anywhere from five to eight years of intensive surgical education, board certification possibly in multiple specialties, and hospital privileges.

The American Board of Medical Specialties, and its board certification process was established in 1930 based on recommendations of the Flexner Report, whose purpose was to improve and standardize the quality of medical care nationwide.  At that time, most non-academic training programs were shut down.  However, for profit, private, corporate-sponsored, and non-university based education in the area of aesthetic procedures has flourished over the last few decades.  A copy cat board “the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery” was created 30 years ago by some oral surgeons who were performing cosmetic surgeries and wanted to capitalize on the credibility of the term “board certified.”  They are in no way affiliated with the American Board of Medical Specialties.  Their members claim to be better qualified than actual board certified plastic surgeons because they were never bogged down by all the extra surgery training and only focus on cosmetic things.

Most of us in the medical world agree that it is often not the things you know, but rather the things you don’t know that can cause you trouble. Most physicians who have set high educational standards for themselves and completed board certification have done so to ensure that they can offer safe procedures that are not commercially biased.

It is worth the minimal time investment to check your doctors credentials on the Board’s website www.abms.org. This is a free service.  It is never good to place your trust in someone who engages in unethical advertising.  You might also ask in which hospitals your doctor is credentialed to perform any given plastic surgery procedure. Hospitals will carefully research each physician’s training and usually only award privileges for certain operations to those whom they feel are appropriately qualified based on their training and status in the medical community.  Ongoing education is important, so society membership in ASPS and ASAPS should be considered essential for the qualified plastic surgeon.

In addition to online research, ask a physician or friend you trust if they can recommend a  plastic surgeon.  Many of the most successful surgeons have built their practices on referrals rather than advertisements.  Nothing replaces an in person consultation.  When you meet your physician, use your “gut feeling.” Do you like/trust this person? How do they respond to your concerns and questions? Undergoing surgery is a difficult process and in the event of complications or you are dissatisfied in any way, it is important to work with someone you think could be supportive of you.

This is supposed to be fun! We expect all our first time visitors to be nervous, but please try to relax and let us help you however we can!!!  My staff and I take pride in making your consultation experience as comfortable as possible.  To make the most of your time, try to do some background research, and be clear about your goals beforehand. This will help you know what questions to ask and help you focus your time.  My website is intended to be educational. We look forward to seeing you in our office, and my team and I are also happy to answer your email questions and welcome any and all feedback that can help us serve you better.

The internet can be a fabulous resource to prepare yourself prior to your surgery and even prior to your consultation. A half hour consultation is not enough to provide adequate education for surgical patients. One should always maintain a degree of skepticism and understand that only the best of results are typically displayed in photographs.  Reviewing photographs online isn’t easy. What you see might not be what you get.  Cosmetic surgery is a competitive business and depending on the integrity of the site, online images may have been tampered with. There may also be changes in lighting, hair, make up, or positioning that alter the true nature of the surgical result. Please note that any photo of a face that shows the patient smiling, will make them artificially look younger and “lifted” – keep this in mind if you are trying to look younger in a photo, ladies and gentlemen!!

Here are a list of resources which will help you prepare.

  • www.abms.org – The American Board of Medical Specialties – check board certification here
  • www.plasticsurgery.org – The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)- this is the main professional organization for plastic surgeons
  • www.surgery.org – The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) – sister to ASPS and the main professional society for plastic surgeons specializing in aesthetic procedures
  • www.carecredit.com – Check online financing options
  • www.realself.com – This site has a lot of input from patients which makes it fresh.  Physicians do advertise on this site, however, it is intended to function as if free from commercial bias.
  • www.breastaugmentationutahcost.com – I wrote this specifically for patients interested in breast surgery.  I recommend all patients thinking about a consultation for breast surgery in my office, review this site first.