Unfortunately with declining reimbursement from insurance companies, some physicians have attempted to augment their income with elective cosmetic procedures, and have even gone so far as to portray themselves as "plastic surgeons". To the general public, this can be confusing and misleading. Plastic surgery is a specific specialty recognized by the American College of Graduate Medical Education. As such, there are very strict training criteria that a physician must complete in order to call themselves a Plastic Surgeon. At a minimum, a plastic surgeon must complete three years of General Surgery; or complete a residency in: Otolaryngology, Urology, Orthopedic Surgery, Neurosurgery, or Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery; and then complete an additional residency in Plastic Surgery. Consequently, a plastic surgeon must complete at least 6 - 9 years of training in addition to medical school. Once a plastic surgeon has completed the necessary training, it is then necessary to undergo a rigorous board certification process involving a comprehensive written exam, and oral exams with multiple case reviews. Only after completing and passing all of these prerequisite requirements may a plastic surgeon then be recognized as a board certified plastic surgeon. All plastic surgeons who are active members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons are board certified prior to being elected into active membership. What this means to the public is that they can be reassured their plastic surgeon, certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, has had the necessary training to safely treat them. More importantly, they not only have the necessary training to perform your procedure, they also have the necessary training to deal with any complications that may occur. This is especially important from a patient safety standpoint.
So how can you know if your surgeon is an actual plastic surgeon? Ask questions, this is your right, and no physician should be offended by your questions. Specifically ask: Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery? Do you have hospital privileges to perform this procedure? (Without proper training physicians will not be granted privileges to perform procedures in the hospital. Consequently, they are forced to perform these procedures in an outpatient facility not connected with the hospital.) And finally, ask them if they are a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Any procedure that a patient may undergo must be undertaken with that patient's informed consent. Part of this informed consent is an understanding of who is performing the procedure. Remember, ask questions!