"Anyone Can Wear a White Coat," warns American Society of Plastic Surgeons

MakenzieR on 28 Sep 2011 at 9:00am

Last week we talked about how any MD, even a psychiatrist, can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon.

This week, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons is launching campaign with the same message, and encouraging patients to “Do their homework” because “anyone can wear a white coat.

Their new video tells the true story of Dinora Rodriguez, a Los Angeles woman who ended up with a “uniboob” (see photo on right) after a breast augmentation.  The doctor also performed eye surgery while Rodriguez was under -- a procedure she did not request.

asps patient safetyWhile they do not state what type of doctor Rodriguez went to (and couldn't confirm when I asked), it’s assumed he/she wasn’t board-certified in plastic surgery, as the importance of that qualification is the crux of ASPS's campaign.

“It’s actually legal -- it’s legal -- in this country, as advanced as it is, for non- board-certified plastic surgeons to practice plastic surgery,” says ASPS member Dr. Steven Teitelbaum in the video.

What differentiates a board-certified plastic surgeon from someone who took a weekend course in liposuction?

“Plastic surgeons who are board-certified have also been trained extensively in how to take care of complications,” says former ASPS President Dr. Phil Haeck to RealSelf.  “While we like to tell patients complications never occur, they do occur. Having trained in a residency in plastic surgery means that the volumes were high enough that you know how to take care of complications when they occur.”

He adds “Someone who goes to take a few courses in Vegas, has never been trained to treat the complications.  You want someone who's seen it all; who knows if you have an infection and how to take care of it.

“If [your doctor] says ‘I never have complications so I don't have to know how,’ that's someone you have to run away from right away.”

Dr. Teitelbaum (along with ASPS) hopes that an official line will be drawn:

“What should happen is that state medical boards should say ‘you were trained in pediatrics, you were trained in orthopedic surgery -- so you get to do pediatrics, and you get to do orthopedic surgery.’  That’s it.  It’s that simple.”

While RealSelf believes board-certification is important, there are many things to consider when selecting a doctor for a cosmetic procedure.  How can you choose the right person for you? Fill out the RealSelf Consultation Questionnaire when you first call or go into the office.

For more tips from ASPS, head to their Patient Safety page.

Photo credits: ASPS; sharetv.org

Comments (2)

Many thanks to Realself for posting this important story. We have tried unsuccessfully to get medical boards to protect patients from unqualified doctors. So instead it is upon patients to understand that only the American Board of Plastic Surgery credentials plastic surgeons. Beware of any other "plastic" or "cosmetic" board; none others are recognized. And beware of doctors certified, but by the wrong board, such as an ENT (head and neck) doctor working below the shoulder. Finally, watch out for doctors not board certified in anything. I don't think they should be practicing at all!
  • Reply

Dr. Teitelbaum confirms in this interview that Dinorah's doctor was NOT board-certified in plastic surgery: 

CBS Los Angeles

  • Reply