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Is Your Plastic Surgeon Board Certified? Or Even A Plastic Surgeon?

While it may come as no surprise to you, not all plastic surgeons are created equal. Training, experience, and board certification are some ways to qualify your doctor. What may surprise you is that many people performing plastic surgeons are not plastic surgeons. Some aren’t even doctors.

The shocking video on this page is unfortunately a true tale. Unknowingly having plastic surgery from someone without a medical license is a rare disaster. However, doctors performing outside of their scope of training is actually a more common exercise than one may think. And this trend will likely get worse.

A recent study conducted out of NYU searching Google for plastic surgeons yielded hundreds of doctors that aren’t plastic surgeons marketing themselves as plastic surgeons online, including general surgeons, dermatologists, internal medicine doctors, gynecologists, emergency room doctors, dentists, urologists, anesthesiologists, and even a phlebotomist.

Why and how can this be? For one, it isn’t illegal for a gynecologist to perform a breast augmentation, just as it isn’t illegal for a plastic surgeon to perform a hysterectomy. It is just unwise. The sad truth is that a lot of physicians are feeling big payment cuts by health insurance and Medicare making the practice of being a physician virtually cost prohibitive. The number of physicians closing their solo practices and joining hospitals over the last few years have been staggering. Thus, many have turned to cash services to avoid the third party payer system (health insurance) to make additional income to keep afloat. Why would a general surgeon drive to a hospital at 2 am to evaluate a patient and make a diagnosis – a skill that took 16 years and often $200,000 in loans to accrue, wait an hour for the operating room team to assemble, perform a 1 hour appendectomy, see the patient the next day in the hospital, and cover his care for the next 90 days and assume major liability for a total of — wait for it — $500? No, there isn’t a typo.

However, many of these physicians turning to cosmetic surgery have no formal training. Removing a gallbladder involves a much different set of skills than removing a hump on the nose. And simply making the appropriate diagnosis in a facial aging scenario is apples and oranges compared to understanding what right upper quadrant pain after eating a fatty meal may mean.

Thus, it is imperative to do research before choosing your surgeon. You should know where they trained and under what discipline (rheumatology or plastic surgery?), if they are board certified (in rheumatology or plastic surgery?), and if they have hospital privileges to perform the procedure they propose to do to you. This last point is an important one. A hospital won’t approve an internist to perform a butt augmentation. And they won’t permit a plastic surgeon to perform a heart transplant. Thus, knowing a doctor’s credentials is a good start to knowing your doctor. You may also check the American Board of Plastic Surgery website, or American Society of Plastic Surgeons website.