Choosing Plastic Surgeons Based on Diplomas and Memberships?

When trying to choose a plastic surgeon, how does one tell the difference between all the different diplomas and "Member of" associations?

Doctor Answers 8

Choosing a plastic Surgeon questions to ask - This video will answer most of your questions

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Thousands of physicians with no residency training in plastic surgery and without certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery (the only Board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties that certifies plastic surgeons) promote themselves as `cosmetic surgeons' and `plastic surgeons'. Some are primary care physicians, some are emergency room doctors; some have never completed a residency training program in any specialty and are not eligible to take any specialty board exam. Many take `weekend courses' on liposuction, or breast augmentation, or facelifts, then return to their practice and begin promoting that procedure and performing it on patients.

The minimum amount of training in plastic surgery that will allow a physician to be eligible for certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is five years, and many board-certified plastic surgeons, myself included, have several additional years of training in general surgery and plastic surgery. There are a number of reasons for such a significant training requirement. Chief among them are the following: one does not acquire sophistication in diagnosis and treatment planning, superior surgical skill, and the capacity to minimize the possibility of complications and unfavorable outcomes by taking weekend courses. It requires years of training experience under the direction of talented mentors. It requires devotion to the art and practice of plastic surgery.

Be careful in evaluating physicians whose `Board Certification' is by a `Board' which is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), and who belong to an `Academy' that does not require residency training in plastic surgery. Some will claim that they are `double-' or even `triple-board certified', when only one (and occasionally none) of those `boards' are recognized by the ABMS. Visit the ABMS website to see which specialties have ABMS recognition.

It takes just a few mouse clicks to verify a surgeon's credentials online. Make sure that the surgeon or surgeons that you are considering are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and are active members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). ASPS members are also eligible for membership in the exclusive American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), the premier professional association of board-certified plastic surgeons with a specialty practice in cosmetic surgery.

When choosing a plastic surgeon it is imperative to select a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Often, plastic surgeons who perform a great deal of aesthetic or cosmetic surgery will also be members of ASAPS.

Selecting a plastic surgeon should always start with board certification but it doesn't end there.

Regardless of how you decide who you see, ask yourself the following questions after your consultation appointment(s):

Is this surgeon qualified to perform the surgery I am considering?

Do I like this person? Will I enjoy seeing them over the course of my surgery and recovery?

Was my complete medical history taken and examined in detail?

Did this physician truly listen to me as I explained my thoughts about the improvement I am seeking?

Does this physician share my aesthetic sensibility? Do they understand me and are they able to provide exactly what I am looking for?

Was I provided with a thorough understanding of all options available (both surgical and non-surgical)?

Was I shown photographic examples of surgical outcomes that give me confidence?

Was the office staff professional, friendly and accommodating?

Was I pressured in any way to proceed with surgery?

Listen to what your heart and your gut tell you when you are evaluating your consultation experience. Only move forward if you can do so with confidence about the experience you expect to have in a given plastic surgery practice, and about your ultimate outcome as a surgical patient.

Your experience with the consultation process is a good indication of what you are likely to receive as a surgical patient in any practice. If the process is well-organized and enjoyable, the staff is respectful and efficient, and the physician takes adequate time to understand your individual needs and communicates effectively, then you have a very high likelihood of being treated in a similar fashion if you become a surgical patient of that practice. If the process is disorganized or rushed, if the staff is discourteous or unprofessional, or if the physician does not give you confidence that your needs will be met, then don't expect things to get any better once you are a surgical patient.

You must be absolutely certain that your plastic surgeon's aesthetic sensibility matches your aesthetic goals. I have a very particular aesthetic vision, and I do not pretend to be the plastic surgeon for everybody. I strive to produce surgical results that are natural-appearing, results that do not advertise a trip to the operating room. For example, I do not perform breast augmentation for patients that are seeking an overly large and distinctly `done' breast appearance. And I have a particular distaste for cheek implants, as I think they rarely produce natural-appearing cheek contours, and instead prefer to enhance facial volume by means of structural fat grafting. Make sure that your plastic surgeon's philosophy and preferred approaches are consistent with the goals that you have in mind.

Adequate communication is obviously invaluable, and you should be able to communicate clearly and easily not only with your doctor, but also with your doctor's staff. Over the course of preparing for and recovering from aesthetic surgery, your doctor's staff will have an important and active role. Make sure that your interaction with the staff gives you confidence that you will receive the care and attention that you expect, and deserve, postoperatively.

Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 123 reviews

ABFPRS or ABPS: Choose a Surgeon well versed in facial surgery

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I would state that there there are two basic items you want to look for:

1) Board certification by either the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ABFPRS) or the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). The basic difference between them is as follows: those certified by the ABFPRS are usually first certified in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (ABOto). The training and surgical skills are honed exclusively on disease, cancers, disorders, and cosmetic/ reconstructive challenges of the face, head, and neck. 25% of the examination (oral and written) for Board certification in Otolaryngology is represented by Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery questions. Those with a specific interest in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery have the option of completing a fellowship, and then obtaining a second board certification by the ABFPRS. ABFPRS diplomates will typically focus on cosmetic/ reconstructive challenges on the face.

Those who are ABPS certified typically do their initial training in General Surgery (abdominal, breast, hernia, gall bladder,vascular procedures), followed by training in Plastic Surgery, which involves cosmetic and reconstructive challenges on the entire body.

Those certified by the ABFPRS and the ABPS have typically been very successful academically in medical school and in their post-graduate training. Both groups have competitive, well trained surgeons in their ranks.

There has been and probably always will be a "turf battle" between the groups, although it is much more civil than in years past. The opinion you receive is likely to vary based on who you are asking.

2) Prospective patients seeking Facial Plastic Surgery should seek out a surgeon who is certified either by the ABFPRS or the ABPS and who happens to perform a lot of facial surgery. Reputation of an individual surgeon is also critical; fantastical advertising and "too good to be true" marketing is to be avoided. The face and neck have very complex anatomy and require the skills of a surgeon who is not an occasional interloper.

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 103 reviews

How Does A Prospective Patient Choose The Right Doctor To Do Her Cosmetic Surgery?

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Choosing the right plastic surgeon is perhaps the most difficult task any patient can perform.  To make this job easier, there are some very basic rules. 

1.  Choose a Board Certified plastic surgeon, certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and he or she should have membership in ASPS and ASAPS. 

2.  Be sure this plastic surgeon has privileges at a local hospital to do the exact surgery you are requesting. 

3.  Be sure this plastic surgeon operates in a certified surgery center or hospital.

4.  Be sure your anesthesiologist is Board Certified.

5.  Be sure at least one of the people in the OR with the surgeon and the anesthesiologist is a State licensed registered nurse (RN).

6.  Be sure you have a registered nurse in the recovery room post anesthesia. 

7.  See before and after pictures of actual patients your plastic surgeon has operated on.

8.  Speak to at least one of your plastic surgeon's patients who has had the procedure you are interested in.

9.  Be sure your plastic surgeon explains your proposed procedure completely to you, including potential complications.  If the explanation comes from an assistant, beware.  Plastic surgeons who have little time for the pre operative patient have even less time for the post operative patient.  These surgeons have little facility to deal with complications, and all surgeons get complications.  The good plastic surgeons will shepherd you through the pre operative stage, will personally do the surgery on you, will see you personally the day after surgery, and if things are less than perfect, they will correct them. 

10. Trust your gut, go with the surgeon you trust, not the one with the best marketing. 


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Who is qualified?

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Board certification is important, whether it is the American Board of Plastic Surgery, or the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. However additional factors such as memberships in peer associations such as American Society of Plastic Surgeons or American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery is equally important in my view. These organizations require colleague recommendations and nominations prior to membership--this benchmark indicates that other surgeons are comfortable with a doctor's abilties and care for a patient. 

William Loutfy, MD
Albuquerque Plastic Surgeon

Choosing plastic surgeons based on diplomas and memberships?

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Hello! Thank you for your question.  Cost will vary among plastic surgeons as well as with geographic location and what procedures exactly they will be providing to you.  Certainly, researching a board certified plastic surgeon well-versed in the procedure(s) you desire is recommended - checking the American Board of Plastic Surgery is a great start. Consult with two or more surgeons who you are happy with their postoperative photographs and those who you, most importantly, feel comfortable and confident with. Use the opportunity to ask questions as well as visit with staff and investigate the accredited facilities they work out of.  I believe fellowship-training, beyond the core plastic surgery residency to be important, as that surgeon has gone above and beyond to seek additional training specific to that area of interest and chosen to gain additional expertise in that area.   

Experience should not be measured solely by the age of the surgeon or how many years s/he has been in practice.  Checking the education and training is more valuable - a Board Certified MD plastic surgeon who was accepted to and completed an integrated plastic surgery residency, in today's day and age, are excellent choices. Those are the top students who have superior training at top institutes.  Plastic Surgery is NOT a is a residency. Those surgeons who have actually successfully completed additional fellowship training beyond the plastic surgery residency are also passionate about that area and will likely have the most recent, innovative, and up to date techniques. These are usually the younger surgeons, who are still readily willing and competent to continue to strive for the newest material and remain up to date on literature and conferences. 

You must decide for yourself who you are most comfortable with and confident with who will meet your goals and expectations. Cost may differ just on expertise and the aforementioned additional training ad what that additional expertise training has afforded to his/her patients.  Hope that this helps!  Best  wishes!

Lewis Albert Andres, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Choosing a surgeon

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During your consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon, ask to see before and after photos of actual patients who have undergone cosmetic surgery. The surgeon may provide you with a list of patients you may speak to as a reference for the doctor. To enhance your education regarding the surgeon, you may be introduced to some post-op patients as well during your visit with the surgeon. Most patients are willing to share their experience regarding their surgeon, the staff, hospital, and recovery.

Professional doctors will ensure realistic expectations and take the time to address your concerns. They will provide you with honest advice and encourage you to do your homework, talk to other patients, and make an informed choice. One of the most important factors in choosing a plastic surgeon is your personal comfort level with the doctor. You should feel comfortable asking questions about your cosmetic surgery procedure so that you can make an educated final decision on whether you would like to proceed with surgery.

There are a number of advantages in choosing a qualified and highly experienced plastic surgeon to perform your cosmetic surgery. If there are any complications during surgery, an experienced plastic surgeon will be more adept at handling the situation. In addition, a plastic surgeon that has performed many cosmetic surgeries will have had more time to perfect his or her technique and results.

Reputable plastic surgeons should have privileges to perform cosmetic surgery procedures in the operating room at an accredited hospital, not just in the surgery center in their office. They work with a highly skilled team including, board certified anesthesiologists, nurses, and technicians to enhance patient comfort and to provide a peace of mind to the patient’s and their families.

I hope this helps.

Importance of Memberships and Diplomas

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Essentially the most important certification is being a Diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery ("Board Certified"). This agency is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties which oversees all the Boards. The other associations are professional societies which may make members uphold to certain standards such as ethics or advertising. These agencies may punish members for not adhering to the society rules.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

Importance of certification

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I respectfully desagree with Dr. Placik. This is the typical general plastic surgeon responce to who is really board certified to do plastic surgery on the face. There has been always a resistance of general plastic surgeons to recognize that Facial Plastic Surgeons are as qualified and sometimes more experience than them to do faces.

Lets look at statistics: The American Society of Plastic Surgery 2008 statistis say that general plastic surgeons did 112,933 facelifts in the US. This information was collected from arround 17,000 General Plastic Surgeons. If we divide 112,933 by 17,000 this means taht the average General Plastic Surgeon does 6.6 facelifts a year. On the other hand, I do between 15-17 facelifts a week. This means that I do twice as much facelifts a week that an average General Plastic Surgeon would do a year. It would be very difficult for a facial plastic surgeon to make a living in this economy doing 6 facelifts a year only, and also you will not very good at a surgery doing it once every 2 months.

Againg, I do not meen this to be a point to fight about, but both specialties offer great surgeons available to the public and we do not need to be puting each specialty above or below the other. The most important things that a patient should ask is:

1. Is the surgeon board certified by the ABFRS or the ABPS

2. How many procedures like this you do in a year. If it is not more than 150 facelifts a year, please look for another surgeon.

Gustavo A. Diaz, MD
Charlotte Facial Plastic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.