The Educated Patient

Did you know that:

  • Any medical doctor, even one without plastic surgery training can call themselves a plastic surgeon? Ant that they can legally perform plastic surgery procedures?
  • A dentist can legally perform a facelift, nose reshaping or liposuction in their dental office.
  • Any person with a basic medical degree can advertise themselves as a plastic surgeon.
  • A physician can state that they are “board certified,” although the “board” is not generally recognized by the medical community or profession. There are over 100 of these non-recognized boards in the United States (most formed in the past 10 years).

All of this means that you must carefully evaluate the background of any plastic surgeon you are considering. Since this evaluation process can be so complex, we have listed a four step process to help you in your selection of a plastic surgeon. While no selection process can guarantee a positive result, the process below can help ensure that the surgeon you are considering has a very high level of medical training, experience and demonstrated competency.

Four Standard Questions for Checking the Credentials of a Plastic Surgeon

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.

  1. How well do you communicate with the doctor?
  1. Does the doctor listen to your goals and concerns?
  1. Does the doctor carefully explain the procedure, covering all aspects such as pre-care (before surgery) and the post-surgery follow up?
  1. How comfortable do you feel with the surgeon’s ability to perform the procedure you want?
  1. Do you feel that you and your surgeon can be “partners” in working together to achieve a realistic result?
  1. Have you looked at the surgeon’s before and after photos of the procedure you are considering?
  1. 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.

Other Factors in Selecting the Plastic Surgeon

Although it is 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 instructions 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 the surgeon can be “partners” in working together to achieve the best result possible?
  • 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  a level of confidence that together you will achieve the outcome that you seek. If you don’t feel you have this, you should continue your search. There are highly qualified plastic surgeons whom you can communicate with, so keep searching until you find the doctor who makes you feel comfortable.

“A friend who was a patient of Dr. Zaworski referred me to him. I come from a medical family – my dad is a vascular surgeon – so I knew to really check out a doctors credentials. And I did my homework. I met with 6 different doctors but I was really impressed with Dr. Zaworski. His training and medical background were as good as it gets. And I really liked his personality. He listens and he really cared about me as a person. I’ve had more than one procedure by him and have been very pleased with the results. Although I live in Los Angeles now, I still go back to Dr Zaworski. He is a great artist, an excellent care giver and I KNOW I’m safe with him. He has a top notch surgical staff and with his twenty years of plastic surgery experience, he’s not going to make a mistake. Dr. Zaworski is a great plastic surgeon.”

Kimberly Page
International model and television personality

© Copyright - Dr. Robert E. Zaworski. All rights reserved.
Robert E. Zaworski, M.D. is Board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The American Board of Plastic Surgery provides certification for surgeons who are trained and specialize in Plastic Surgery and is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialities which has set the standards for excellence in Medical Specialties in the United States since 1933.