All Surgeons Are Not Created Equal. How to Find A Reputable, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon For Your Next Proceduremartineau.eric87
All Surgeons Are Not Created Equal. How to Find A Reputable, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon For Your Next Procedure
There’s an elephant in the room – and on Instagram, and RealSelf, and lurking in closed Facebook groups.
These days, patients are confused with surgeons promoting themselves as “board certified”, even when they have not been certified by the ABPS (American Board of Plastic Surgery).
That may not mean a lot to you at face value, but let’s look a bit closer to understand why that’s a problem, and why you need to be concerned about it.
Let’s get one thing out of the way as we get started – this isn’t about ‘attacking’ any one doctor or society. This is about discussing a situation’s that’s become rampant in the realm of aesthetics, and namely invasive procedures. Patients are being mislead, confused…and in too many cases botched and/or hurt…I have the horror stories and gruesome photos to prove it. I want to open up a conversation, and not tear anyone down. Higher standards and transparency benefit everyone; and I’d like to remind you to keep that in mind as you read through this post.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words…let’s check out the following were pulled directly from the websites of practices or physicians claiming the title “board-certified plastic surgeon” when advertising invasive procedures such as liposuction or a BBL…
“Board-certified surgeon” A
“Board-certified surgeon” B
A practice with several “board-certified plastic surgeons” (those prices are scary low!). I’m not even going to go there with “board eligible” claim besides saying you should be running far away!
Next up, let’s do a quick history lesson on how board certification came to be…
In 1933, 4 large specialty groups of doctors decided to set standards for post graduate physician education. They met with other specialty groups, hospitals, medical schools, examination boards and formed the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Through the years the number of specialties has grown from the original 4 to 24 member boards.
To become board certified through ABMS in a medical specialty (like Plastic Surgery) a physician needs to attend an accredited residency, complete the residency and then qualify to take the board exams, a written test and then an oral examination where the physician must submit cases that they themselves have performed. It usually takes 7-10 years of training in Plastic Surgery to become Board Certified. Once certified, a doctor must maintain competence and retake the board exams every 10 years to prove that continuing education and training is ongoing.
Here is where it gets tricky. There are only 24 member boards and Cosmetic Surgery is not one of them. In fact there are thousands of different boards that are not members of the prestigious ABMS. These are “self-designated boards” or in other words, boards that anyone can establish and regulate. I could start a new board tomorrow, “The Zoe Board of Quality Surgeons” , and it would be perfectly legal and I could advertise it as such. But at the end of the day…it means nothing.
Worse yet, depending on the market and local regulations, in some states an OBGYN with a few weekend courses is able to market as “board certified” when advertising procedures like fat transfers, liposuction, and more.
Think about it for a second – the fact that we have a show like Botched! on TVsed on showcasing and rectifying the work of sub-par or poorly qualified surgeons, is an alarming reality check of just how rampant bad surgeons have become.
In any other industry, flaunting a list of fake credentials in marketing would be not only unacceptable or illegal, but nobody would want to buy it.
- Would you trust a handyman with knowledge of plumbing to fix your electrical wiring?
- Would you let a chauffeur with amit and a few rides under their belt rush you home on the highway?
- Would you hire a law office secretary who had “seen a lot of cases” to represent in a court of law?
Those of you who’ve been around the industry for some time may remember the ASPS launching it’s “Do Your Homework” campaign as early as 2011. Things have only gotten worse since them, In fact, in 2015 the International Business Times even published an in-depth article on the confusion patients face (and board-certified plastic surgeons aim to clear up) amid the “wild west” scenario facing the aesthetics industry.
Between surgery support groups on Instagram and Facebook, reviews on RealSelf, surgeons hiring marketing companies to bury any negative reviews, and an overload of before/after photos on Instagram…research is no longer what it seems.
Better than hearing it from me alone, I reached out to a “dream team” of incredible board-certified plastic surgeons to get their take on this issue – and why board certification matters. Here’s what they had to say…
Dr. Michael Somenek , a board-certified facial plastic surgeon based in Washington, DC:
“I think increasing awareness and detailing the importance of finding a board certified plastic surgeon is so important for the overall safety of patients. All too commonly people label themselves as board-certified who aren’t and this is not only deceptive, but takes advantage of people who otherwise wouldn’t know the difference.
People need to do their homework when they are considering a plastic surgical procedure. Cheaper is not better in this field and your body is worth more than the equivalent of a Wal-Mart special. Make sure your procedure is performed in an accredited facility where your safety is the highest priority.”
I then spoke with Dr. Myla Bennett, a board-certified plastic surgeon based in Atlanta, GA; who herself has discussed this topic in detail on social media. Here’s her take on patients thinking any doctor can perform procedures such as liposuction:
Everyone thinks “Oh its just a little lipo, no big deal if its not a real plastic surgeon.” I beg to differ. The incisions are small so the operation is essentially done blindly. For that reason, it makes no sense that you would pay someone with no surgical training to do your operation blindly. This is why people end up dying from liver lacerations and intestinal injuries – because you have non-surgeons doing an operation on anatomy that they haven’t seen since the first month of medical school. That is scary. Liposuction is very dangerous in the hands of a non-surgeon. If I were going to have a surgery from a doctor with no surgical training, I would want them to cut me open so they can see everything and avoid injuring my vital organs!”
Next up, I sought the input of Dr. Darryl J. Blinksi, based in Miami, Florida. Dr. Blinkski himself often repairs (and sees first-hand) the subpar outcomes that result from the hands of “surgeons” who are not board-certified. This is what he had to say:
“The art of medicine and now the art of plastic surgery are disappearing. We are now seeing Medicine and especially cosmetic plastic surgery/cosmetic medicine as just another business like hair salons, dry cleaners, etc. Board certification by the ABPS separates the doctors whom are still practicing the art. But as in any practice there are those whom care solely about the dollars not the patient. Be careful out there – research, ask questions feel confident you are using a caring, trained physician to operate upon you. “
Another valuable (and incredibly insightful) perspective on this debate is from Dr. Richard J. Brown, a double board-certified plastic surgeon based in Scottsdale, Arizona:
“It does not matter what type of doctor you see, you should see one that is board certified. You should know what that means. It is too important to your life that you know what that means.
Now, I will be the first to tell you that just because a Plastic Surgeon is board certified does not mean they are any good. You still have to do your part and research the reputation of your surgeon. But, if they are board certified in Plastic Surgery that means they have taken and passed all the requirements to become a doctor, then sat for written and oral board exams to become a Plastic Surgeon. They likely have 10 or more years of training in medicine – I have 12. If they pass that means the board, made up of our Plastic Surgery peers, have deemed them knowledgeable and safe to practice Plastic Surgery.
Before we can sit for the oral exam we have to collect our own cases for 9 months. We then turn them into the board and some of our own cases are chosen for the exam. Next we show up for a two day exam and are tested on known and unknown surgical cases. We sit in front of a panel and answer questions fired at us one after the next for two days. It takes great preparation, study and physical practice to be able to pass this test. At the end you pass or fail. I can promise you the degree to be a “Cosmetic Surgeon” is not as stringent. All plastic surgeons are cosmetic surgeons, but not all cosmetic surgeons are plastic surgeons.
I know we deeply need to draw the line because when a dentist is performing breast augmentation surgery…we have a problem people. This goes on in Arizona and many other states.
The number one thing that makes me angry is the following. So many of these so called “Cosmetic Surgeons” are in it for one thing and one thing only – money! I chose the field of plastic surgery for the reconstructive work and the cosmetic work. I did not choose this specialty for the money. I chose it for the art and the ability to really help reconstructive and cosmetic patients. I deeply enjoy the procedures and patients. Sure, I want to make money like any other person running a business, but I did not choose my specialty to only make money. I chose it because I love what our specialty has to offer.
So, I think it is OK for some of those doctors to do some stuff relevant to their field. If an OBGYN wants to do vaginal rejuvenation, I think they know that area pretty well. If an ENT wants to do nasal cosmetic surgery, I think they trained and are qualified to do that. Some ENT surgeons are also qualified to do facelifts. I am adamantly against an OBGYN doing liposuction, or a dentist doing a facelift, breast augmentation or any other surgery outside of the mouth. There does need to be more stringent screening and policing of who can do what.
Too many people are being drawn in by the cheap fees and empty promises. When complications occur the so called “cosmetic surgeon” is no where to be found, and the patient is left to hang out to dry with complications. Believe me…we all have complications, but we board-certified plastic surgeons know how to take care of ours and we fix them. If all of these other specialists want to do breast and body procedures or facial cosmetic surgery then go back to residency and do the proper training. If they are that passionate about the field of Plastic Surgery… go do the three year residency required and then I would have no problem with and OB trained surgeon (or family practice doctor) doing these procedures because they would be boarded to do so. Keep in mind if the doctor is not a surgeon then they have to go through the entire surgical training to be able to even do any kind of plastic surgery. That means a 6 year combined program minimum. If they already are surgically trained, it is 3 years of training.
The Bottom Line:
I think the debate over “who” I a reputable, and qualified provider of invasive aesthetic procedures can be summarized in another quote from Dr. Myla Bennett:
“You can’t get a board certification in plastic surgery off of RealSelf or Google.”
To find out if a surgeon is board certified, you can use the quick search function at https://www.abplasticsurgery.org/ . If they don’t show up (U.S. doctors), don’t let them cut you.
Once you have several board-certified plastic surgeons in mind, from there you can use their Before/After galleries to determine who you may wish to perform your procedure. Go for consults, get a feel for their staff and practice, check them out on RealSelf or Yelp…and then proceed knowing you are getting work done by an experienced, reputable and credentialed provider.
I am guessing this post will stir up debate – and I welcome it! I would be interested to hear how “board certified” is being used (or abused) by providers in your market. What is your take in this debate? For those of you who are non-ABPS physicians, what procedures do you perform; and choose not to perform? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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