Understanding Your Surgeon's Qualifications
Did you know there is a difference between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon? If not, you're not the only one. A study revealed that nearly three out of five women in the U.S. do not know there is a difference between cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons. This is a particularly alarming statistic because more than 25 percent of women in the U.S. are considering a cosmetic procedure at this moment.
The decision to proceed with cosmetic surgery is not one that should be taken lightly. Many people weight the pros and cons for years before scheduling their cosmetic surgery procedure. One of the toughest parts of this journey is finding a surgeon who is well matched to your wants and needs. The top three factors patients consider when choosing their surgeon are patient reviews, the surgeon's education and board certification, and before and after photos. However, it can be difficult to gauge your surgeon's qualifications when there are misconceptions and misrepresentations about what it means to be board-certified.
Nearly three out of five women in the U.S. do not know there is a difference between cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons.
Plastic surgery is one of 24 recognized medical specialties by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). ABMS is considered the gold standard of physician certification in the United States. Only physicians who are certified in plastic surgery can call themselves plastic surgeons. To be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (APBS), plastic surgeons complete a minimum of six years in residency. Plastic surgeons are trained in general surgery, trauma surgery, reconstructive surgery, and aesthetic surgery.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the other major society certifying plastic surgeons. To become part of ASPS, the surgeon must have the appropriate prerequisite plastic surgery training, board certification, adherence to a board of ethical practice guidelines, and a specific focus and experience in aesthetic (cosmetic) plastic surgery.
The term "cosmetic surgeon" is not regulated, so any doctor can present themself as a cosmetic surgeon. Legally, any physician with a valid medical license can perform cosmetic procedures, regardless of their training. A cosmetic surgeon could be a dermatologist or dentist who offers injectables or it could also be a family physician who has some training in cosmetic surgery and offers certain procedures like breast augmentation. On the other hand, only plastic surgeons can perform plastic surgery. Having breast reconstruction after a mastectomy is a reconstructive procedure that only a plastic surgeon should perform. But, having a breast augmentation is a cosmetic procedure that could be performed by a plastic or cosmetic surgeon.
If you're unsure of the distinction between cosmetic and plastic surgery, read this article.
Any physician with a valid medical license can perform cosmetic procedures, regardless of their training.
When compared to cosmetic surgeons, plastic surgeons tend to have more experience. Typically, plastic surgeons spend more time in residency training after medical school than cosmetic surgeons. To be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, plastic surgeons complete a minimum of six years in residency. Conversely, the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS), requires one year of additional training post-med school and has no formal residency requirements. Cosmetic surgeons may choose to undergo further training outside these requirements by completing fellowships or clinical work.
The chart below outlines the requirements to become a plastic surgeon versus a cosmetic surgeon.
When you are researching surgeons, you must do more than simply accept that he or she is board-certified. Ask "which board?". As discussed above, the standard for board-certification varies between the certifying bodies. Once you've found a potential surgeon, consider their fellowship training and clinical work to determine if it's the right fit for you.
All the surgeons who participate in the Cosmetic Surgery Grants program are ABPS, board-certified plastic surgeons. This means they possess at least six years of residency training in general surgery, trauma surgery, reconstructive surgery, and aesthetic surgery. Choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon for your cosmetic procedure helps to ensure the likelihood of getting the results you desire with the safety and expertise you need.
If you're interested in a cosmetic surgery procedure, you could save up to $2000 by applying for a Cosmetic Surgery Grant.