The First Question
Is the plastic surgeon Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery http://abplsurg.org, which is the certifying board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialities (ABMS) http://www.abms.org?
The ABMS was established in 1933 to set educational standards for the evaluation of physicians who practice medicine in one of 24 distinct specialties such as: Emergency Medicine; Internal Medicine; Dermatology; or Plastic Surgery. Since each distinct medical specialty has its own certifying board and since the ABMS manages each certifying board, the ABMS is acknowledged by the medical profession as THE authority for board certification.
It’s a little complex but your choice of surgeon should be board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, which is supervised by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
It is important to note that Board Certification is in a specific area. A doctor who is “Board Certified” might have their certification in Dermatology or Internal Medicine, yet can still legally practice plastic surgery.
Note: You can check a physician’s credentials in the following ways:
1) Using the internet, log onto www.abms.org and do a search for the physician.
2) Call the ABMS at 1-800-776-2378 to check on credentials, or visit their website at http://www.abms.org.
3) Check the ABMS Compendium of Certified Medical Specialties. This guide is available in most large libraries.
The Second Question
Is the doctor a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.org?
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is a professional association of physicians who practice the medical specialty known as plastic surgery and it is the largest organization of plastic surgeons in the world. Founded in 1931, the society is composed of surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
The significance of this organization can be determined by a simple fact: 97% of plastic surgeons in the United States who are Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery are members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Having membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons provides you with the assurance that the physician you are considering has been Board Certified in Plastic Surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Since only members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons can display the copyrighted symbol of the ASPS, this symbol is easily recognized as an indicator of the plastic surgeon’s training and credentials.
Note: You can check the physician’s membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in the following ways:
1) Use the internet and log onto www.plasticsurgery.org to do a search for the physician.
2) Call the ASPS at 888-475-2784 to verify membership.
The Third Question
Does the plastic surgeon have plastic surgery privileges at a major hospital?
Having “privileges” means that the hospital has checked the surgeon’s credentials and found the doctor to have the training and experience required to perform surgery in the doctor’s field of medical specialty.
This question of hospital privileges can be very revealing as any medical professional can perform surgery in their own offices or in an independent surgical suite, regardless of training or certification. A major hospital checks credentials and experience carefully, and will not typically allow a doctor without proper training and credentials to operate in their facility.
In choosing a surgeon, you should consider that any surgery carries a risk of complication. If the surgeon you choose does not have hospital privileges and is planning on performing the procedure in his or her office or a private surgical suite, a surgical complication that requires hospital admission could present a major problem because he or she may not be able to have a hospital admit you for that problem.
You should also recognize that if you choose a plastic surgeon without plastic surgery privileges at a major hospital, it means you give up a very substantial safeguard. The surgeon operating on you will be doing so without his or her training and credentials reviewed by an experienced, knowledgeable and independent group of physicians.
Note: You can check on a physician’s hospital privileges by phoning the hospital and asking for the Medical Staff office. Someone there will be able to verify (by phone, email or mail) which of the physicians in their Department of Plastic Surgery are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
The Fourth Question
Is the physician willing to provide a copy of his or her Curriculum Vitae?
If so, you can look for membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons; Board Certification by the American Board of Medical Specialities (ABMS); and hospital affiliations or privileges. You should be wary of any physician who does not freely provide this document that’s shows training, experience and certification.
Other Factors in Selecting the Plastic Surgeon:
Although it’s crucial to determine the credentials of a plastic surgeon, there are other factors to consider.
- How well do you communicate with the doctor?
- Does the doctor listen to your goals and concerns?
- Does the doctor carefully explain the procedure, covering all aspects such as pre-care (before surgery) and the post-surgery follow up?
- How comfortable do you feel with the surgeon’s ability to perform the procedure you want?
- Do you feel that you and your surgeon can be “partners” in working together to achieve a realistic result?
- Have you looked at the surgeon’s before and after photos of the procedure you are considering?
- Does the surgeon encourage you to seek other opinions if you feel unsure?
In summary, you should be able to establish a high level of communication with your plastic surgeon and should feel a gut level of confidence that together you will achieve the outcome you seek. If you don’t feel you have this, you should continue your search. There are highly-qualified plastic surgeons in this field so keep searching until you find the doctor that makes you feel comfortable.