The recent growth in popularity and media coverage of plastic and cosmetic surgery has spawned questions and misunderstanding about the discipline, as well as about what it means for a plastic surgeon or cosmetic surgeon to be “board-certified.”
Despite not completing a formal residency in plastic surgery, doctors who promote themselves as “cosmetic” or “plastic” surgeons may be found in abundance online. Unfortunately, some of them make it into the media for all of the wrong reasons.
Doctors licensed in any other medical speciality can legally perform “plastic surgery” procedures because states place little to no restrictions on the operations that a licensed physician may do or the manner in which they can market their services.
Yes, there are some legal and ethical boundaries, but it’s the ethical aspects that are most often glided over for profit.
Direct-to-consumer promotion of “plastic surgery” procedures on Instagram and other social media platforms allows for some physicians to build up a persona around “plastic surgery,” with followers in the tens to hundreds of thousands, effectively legitimizing whatever services they are offering.
The problem: ‘Plastic Surgeon’ vs ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’
The problem, and it’s a big one, is that pediatricians, dentists and other medical providers can segue into “plastic surgery” and you suddenly have a less-than-sufficiently-trained doctor performing invasive cosmetic surgeries that were once reserved (or solely performed by) plastic surgeons who completed a 3-6 year residency in general and plastic surgery, followed by sub-specialty training in a 1-3 year fellowship, followed by board-certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
In reality, any certified physician may lawfully refer to oneself or herself as a cosmetic surgeon, regardless of his or her educational background.
“Cosmetic Surgeons” on the other hand, can dawn that title after completing any residency in any medical speciality, and a weekend course, seminar, or apprenticeship in a specific plastic surgery procedure, or, worse still, in “all” cosmetic surgery procedures.
This means there are grave differences between a Plastic Surgeon and a Cosmetic Surgeon.
In order to perform the entire spectrum of cosmetic and reconstructive treatments, such as rhinoplasties, facelifts, breast augmentation and reconstruction, tummy tucks, and accident reconstruction, only doctors who have completed a full residency in plastic surgery have mastered the necessary skills.
An undergraduate plastic surgery resident works full time and spends more than 3,000 hours per year under the direct training and supervision of more senior and fully qualified plastic surgeons to learn how to plan and perform procedures as well as how to properly deal with any complications that may arise.
Weekend training courses or certification by boards that are not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, such as “cosmetic surgery,” are not the same thing.
Safety in surgery
In May 2020, a trio of surgeons assessed the safety of elective cosmetic surgery. Reviewing multiple past compilations of mortality data, including a survey than spanned 10 years of data from across the U.S., they concluded that cosmetic surgery was the safest when performed in an accredited facility by properly trained board-certified plastic surgeons.
Cosmetic surgery, and elective surgery in general, is safe when performed in an accredited facility by properly trained board-certified plastic surgeons.
Let’s have a look at the differences and if it’s better to go with a board-certified plastic surgeon or whether it doesn’t really matter which one you choose.
What board-certified means
The term “board certified” refers to a plastic surgeon who has completed their medical school and required a number of years of accredited medical or surgical training, followed by the successful completion of their written and oral examinations.
Doctors and surgeons may get licensed to practice medicine after completing a residency program. They may, however, pursue board certification in order to go above and beyond the very minimum requirements.
When a surgeon or doctor is board certified, it indicates that they have proved a mastery of knowledge and abilities in a certain field of expertise. They might be certified by a mix of practical and written exams and examinations.
In many cases, boards mandate continued study and re-certification, which may help to guarantee that medical professionals keep up to date, especially in sectors that are evolving at a fast pace.
Surgeons must meet varied board-certification standards depending on whatever body is accrediting their practice.
All cosmetic surgeons must finish a substantial amount of post-secondary study, including:
- A Bachelor’s degree in a premedical field such as biology or chemistry is required.
- A doctorate in medicine (MD) is required.
- A three-year surgical residency program is required.
- A three-year fellowship in cosmetic surgery is required.
The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery has recognized “real” board-certified plastic surgeons who have earned their credentials. The American Board of Plastic Surgery offers a plastic surgery certification via the American Board of Medical Specialties, which has maintained standards in the field since 1933.
Those who have earned their board certification in plastic surgery have completed at least six to eight years of specialized study in a recognized plastic surgery training program in the United States that is supervised by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is the second most important organization for ensuring the ethics and standards of plastic surgeons in the world and is the only organization that certifies doctors who specialize only in plastic surgery.
Ensuring that your surgeon has these qualifications is a great way to know that they have gone through the required training and education.
Benefits of choosing a board certified plastic surgeon
- Specialised education
- Expertise in aesthetics
- Extensive training and testing
- Continuing education requirements
- Commitment first and foremost to patient safety and care
As previously stated, board certification is not required to practice as a plastic surgeon in the United States. Because cosmetic surgery is considered “outside” of the standard medical system, it is critical to do thorough research and choose a surgeon who is board certified in his or her field.
You’ll want to know that you’re in competent and safe hands if you’re considering a surgery on your breasts, body, or face. Surgical expertise, technical competence, and strong aesthetic judgement are all required. It’s crucial to keep these advantages of board certification in mind while you explore cosmetic surgery to be able to achieve the results you truly want.