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Choosing the Right Surgeon - Board Certification and Beyond

How to Choose Your Surgeon: Board Certification & Beyond

The single most important decision you will make regarding aesthetic enhancement is choosing the right surgeon. The following is a check list of criteria which you should evaluate for every physician you consider:

Is the physician board certified by a member board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS)*?
The American Boards of Dermatology, Gynecology, Otolaryngology, Ophthalmology, Surgery and Plastic Surgery each require at least four years of residency, which includes training in plastic and or cosmetic surgical procedures. In practice, specialists usually perform plastic/cosmetic surgical procedures related to their specialty training. For example, a physician trained in otolaryngology may emphasize surgery of the nose, head and neck. A physician trained in dermatology may limit his/her practice to procedures involving the skin and soft tissue.

 *Some ABMS board certified specialists choose to seek further certification by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, the only certifying body which tests knowledge and verifies experience exclusively in cosmetic surgery. In addition to prior ABMS board certification in one of the primary areas of specialization mentioned, diplomates of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery have at least five years of cosmetic surgical experience in private practice in which 1,000 cosmetic surgical procedures have been successfully performed. They must then pass a two-day comprehensive written and oral examination, be reviewed for professional and ethical fitness, and maintain an ongoing schedule of at least 200 cosmetic surgical procedures per year.

Often, individuals consider board certification the sole criterion to evaluate a cosmetic surgeon. Certainly, board certification is a critical prerequisite, but not the final word. The serious consumer should take into account several other important factors:

Does the surgeon specialize in the procedure you want?
Is he/she a Specialty Plastic Surgeon(R)  in the procedure or procedures in which you are interested? How many procedures of this kind has he performed? Ask to see photographs of his/her patients. Ask to speak with patients.

Is the surgeon respected by his peers?
Ask if and when the surgeon has published articles in peer-reviewed medical journals. Ask if the physician has any faculty appointments or is invited to teach other physicians at medical conferences.

Does the surgeon claim only his/her specialty is qualified?
The greatest advances in aesthetic surgery in the last twenty-five years have come from the interaction between numerous physician specialties including: dermatology, otolaryngology, gynecology, plastic surgery and ophthalmology. For a physician to claim that only a member of his specialty is qualified to perform cosmetic surgery may reflect an attitude which could deny you the best possible care.

What is the quality of the surgical environment?
Are procedures performed in a certified outpatient surgical center dedicated to aesthetic surgery? Is a certified anesthetist or anesthesiologist regularly present? Is the physician on staff at a nearby hospital?

What is the quality of post-surgical care?
Determine in advance how often you will see your physician following your procedure. The more often you are seen by your physician and his staff the greater degree of security you have in your recovery.

Are you comfortable with the personal rapport between you and the surgeon?
Your relationship with your surgeon determines a great deal about how comfortable you will feel about your decision -- before, during and after your procedure. Make sure you are able to express your needs and desires. You should always feel your concerns are being addressed by the physician and his/her staff.

Do you share the same sense of aesthetics as your surgeon?
It is important that you and your surgeon have a "meeting of the minds" regarding what you both define as a good result. Remember, a surgical procedure may be performed technically correct and still not achieve an aesthetically pleasing result. Make an effort to determine a mutual definition of success before your procedure(s).