Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon VS. Cosmetic Surgeon

Published: August 20, 2019
Category: General, Accreditation

The difference makes all the difference.

This past February, the Florida Senate proposed a bill which would allow the Department of Health to have more regulatory power over the cosmetic surgery industry. If passed, the department would be able to take legal action against doctors and clinics in the case of serious injury or death. This proposed bill comes at the heels of a steep rise in the number of patient deaths from cosmetic surgery complications over the past decade in the state. Regarded as a plastic surgery destination, Florida has had over ten deaths from the Brazilian Butt Lift procedure alone since 2010. A current lawsuit against Dr. Arnold Valls, a General Practitioner who advertises himself as a Cosmetic Surgeon, has ignited the controversy over what specialties of physicians should be allowed to perform cosmetic surgeries. But wait – aren’t Cosmetic Surgeons the same as Plastic Surgeons? Absolutely not, and the difference between the two can make ALL the difference in the safety of your surgery and the quality of your results!

Pop can be called soda, and sneakers can be called kicks, but a Cosmetic Surgeon can never be called a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon. So, why do so many physicians market themselves as “Cosmetic Surgeons?” Isn’t that misleading to prospective patients? What IS the difference between the two titles?

A “Cosmetic Surgeon” can literally mean anything to the practitioner who defines him or herself as such. To the medical board, it means absolutely nothing. Your family practitioner, who just did your yearly check-up, could go to a two-day training on liposuction, get a certificate of completion to display on his wall, and call himself a Cosmetic Surgeon.

A Plastic Surgeon, on the other hand, generally completes four to seven years of General Surgery training followed by a two to three-year fellowship in Plastic Surgery. Some schools of medicine offer an integrated six-year program for Plastic Surgery as well.  Many go on to complete an additional fellowship in a subspecialty of Plastic Surgery to further specialize their training.  Once completed, a plastic surgeon becomes what is called “board-eligible.”  This is usually an in-between stage when a surgeon has completed their residency and/or fellowship, accepted a position with a hospital or clinic, and can now begin the process of preparing for and scheduling their board exam.  Once a board-eligible plastic surgeon has passed both their written and oral examination, they can legally use the title of a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon.

How is this misleading use of medical titling possible? Why has this happened? Let’s start with the American Healthcare System. With escalating legal exposure and restrictions, and a decline in insurance reimbursement, more and more physicians are beginning to offer elective, cash-based procedures to help supplement their practice’s profits. As a result, a slew of organizations have been created over the past decade to provide weekend and one-week workshops to train these physicians to perform the same surgeries your Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon has trained years for.

Because most accredited surgery centers and hospitals only grant privileges to physicians who are performing surgeries within their area of core competency, many cosmetic surgeons perform such procedures as liposuction in the operating suites of their private offices. This type of environment can lead to complications and even death should an emergency arise during your procedure.

The breadth of surgical skill, knowledge, and experience that a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon receives throughout his or her training and career cannot be summed up in a weekend course. As it turns out, many states are beginning to agree and act due to the sharp rise in patient deaths from cosmetic surgery complications. Certain states now require that any physician claiming to be “board-certified” and advertising himself as such, must designate which American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Board they are certified by. But my cosmetic surgeon says he is “board certified” you say? He or she most likely is; by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery—a self-created organization that has absolutely no official licensing board.

If you are considering a plastic surgery procedure and currently scheduling consultations with several surgeons and one claims that she is a “Board-Certified Cosmetic Surgeon,” please ask the following questions:

  • “What is your medical background and training in?”
  • “What specialty of medicine are you board certified in that is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties?
  • “How many years have you been in practice?”
  • “How many procedures have you performed of the surgery I am considering?”
  • “Where will my procedure be performed? What happens in case of an emergency during my procedure?”
  • “May I see your patient before and after photos of the procedure I am considering? Did YOU perform this surgery?”

Listen closely to what your physician says. Listen even closer to what he does not.

Learn more about who is performing YOUR surgery at Edina Plastic Surgery by calling today!

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