Choosing a doctor to treat your medical conditions isn’t always easy, and likewise, choosing a surgeon for your elective procedure presents its own set of difficulties. I believe people should seek three things from their plastic surgeon: qualifications, knowledge of the latest procedures, and a personal connection.
Unfortunately, we’re seeing no shortage of doctors who claim to be experts in cosmetic medicine and surgery. Along with the economic downturn and the low rates of insurance re-imbursement, physicians from nearly every specialty are competing for cosmetic patients. So, how can you know your surgeon is qualified to treat you?
The answer is to look for board certification in plastic surgery. Even savvy patients who know enough to ask about board certification can be fooled. Many physicians will place an ad outlining their cosmetic surgery services and on the bottom claim simply that they are “board certified.” It is incumbent for the patient to ask “By what board?.” While it is comforting to know that a physician is board certified in something, certainly an anesthesiologist is not the most qualified person to perform cosmetic procedures.
To make things even more confusing, only 24 boards are legitimate and recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The American Board of Facial Plastic Surgery and The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery may sound impressive, but they are promoted by specific groups of physicians and are not recognized by the ABMS. Many patients are surprised to hear that anyone can establish a “board” and accept members, who can then claim to be “board certified”.
The path to become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is especially rigorous, requiring the applicant to pass a written test after residency training and then a 2-day oral exam after one year of practice.
Familiarity with the Latest Procedures
Just because a surgeon is board certified in plastic surgery does not guarantee that he or she is an expert in cosmetic surgery. Plastic surgery is a broad field that includes facial fractures, cleft lip and palate, hand surgery and many other reconstructive procedures. The level of expertise in cosmetic procedures varies greatly, even among plastic surgeons.
From 2002 to 2003, I completed a fellowship exclusively dedicated to cosmetic surgery. This means that, for a period of one year, I ran a cosmetic surgery practice on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I treated my own patients, but I was under the guidance of several preceptors, all of whom are practicing cosmetic surgeons on and around Park Avenue. This was, for me, the best of both worlds. I got hands-on experience, actually doing the procedures, but at the same time I was learning from some of the most successful cosmetic surgeons in the world.
That experience has given me insights into the latest techniques in cosmetic surgery and, in order to keep my knowledge current, I regularly attend both local and national meetings. I integrate what I learned in residency training and in my cosmetic fellowship, with today’s innovations to formulate treatment plans for my patients.
Making a Personal Connection
Qualifications and knowledge of the latest procedures are important prerequisites, but the personal connection you feel with your potential surgeon cannot be overstated. You need to trust your surgeon to be honest and forthright about what degree of improvement you can and cannot expect from any given procedure. You need to trust your surgeon to be there not only for the procedure itself, but throughout your postoperative course, especially in the event of an unexpected complication. Unfortunately, some surgeons may promise you the world and then under deliver. They then complicate matters by being unresponsive to your legitimate concerns postoperatively.
That attitude does not exist in our offices. I strive not only to perform unparalleled surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, but to also form a relationship of trust with each patient. The goal of every operation and procedure is not necessarily to tuck this here or nip that there, but to make my patient happy. I never lose sight of that goal.