7 Steps to Picking the Right Plastic Surgeon for You

Gary H. Manchester, MD (retired)

Article by
San Diego Plastic Surgeon

With a constant need to look healthier and more youthful, the question "How do I find a good plastic surgeon?" is being asked more frequently each day. The answer is simple and can be found with only a little bit of work. This is because most of the work has already been done for you. Each year U.S. News & World Report publishes their list of the best universities and graduate schools in their April issue. This contains the best medical schools and hospital training programs. The academic history of a doctor reveals a drive for excellence from their beginning to the completion of their training. This leads you to Step #1.

Step #1. Which university and graduate programs did they attend?

Admissions committees have been supplied with more information than you will ever have available. By attending a top school a doctor's knowledge and skill have been tried and proven. Peers have held them to the highest possible set of standards. By completing one of these programs your doctor has met a level of excellence above and beyond the average physician.

Step #2. Where did they do their post-graduate training?

Did they go to a major medical center and did their medical school see fit to keep them at their institution after graduation? Again, such places had and have more information than we will ever know about their competence.

Step #3. Are they board certified in their stated specialty?

The majority of plastic surgeons who state that they are board certified are not certified in plastic surgery. There is only one American Board of Plastic Surgery. To check on your plastic surgeon, you can easily check online at their website, which has even more information on the standards to which their members are held. Another option is to call the American Board of Medical Specialties at 1-866-ASK-ABMS (275-2267) and ask about your potential physician.

Step #4. Check with your State Board of Medical Examiners.

Here information regarding the conduct and disciplinary history of any doctor in the country is listed. This can be found at your state medical board's website. For California just follow the link here which will take you to the state's physician lookup function.

Step #5. Do you like your physician?

Did they spend enough time with you or did they pass you on to their staff for most of your consultation? If so, you can be sure he or she will pass you on after the surgery for your post operative care. If there is a problem or you have any questions, who will be there to answer them? No doctor is too busy not to spend time with a patient. Ask who is going to see you after the surgery and who is going to change your dressings and remove your sutures. All are important steps and require proper attention and judgment.

Step #6. How did other people's procedures turn out?

See photographs of the surgery you are contemplating. Remember there is nothing like experience. Young physicians coming out of training are on the cutting edge of knowledge but their teachers have 20 years of hands-on practice. Find the balance that gives the results you will want.

Step #7. And finally, what do past patients have to say?

There are always patients in the waiting room. And if no one is there during your consultation, ask to speak to one. A happy patient will be glad to share their success story. Ask them about their experience and how well their expectations were met. Remember, they were where you are now and decided on this physician. That more than anything is the most powerful endorsement you can find.

This list was compiled by Dr. Gary Manchester, a Harvard-trained plastic surgeon who has over 30 years of private practice experience.