In the aesthetic industry, it is not uncommon to see advertisements for doctors claiming to be “board certified” cosmetic surgeons. While this can be true, it can confuse potential patients.
The misperceptions were detailed in a story in the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. The story discussed a recent study showing that consumers don’t understand the different between the terms “plastic surgeon” and “cosmetic surgeon.” But the difference is huge and can have a real impact on outcomes for unsuspecting patients having cosmetic surgery.
The issue arises when doctors misconstrue the board certification process and the training that is involved. Because of this, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery felt the need to conduct a study. Researchers designed an Internet survey to assess public perceptions of plastic or cosmetic surgery. A total of 5,135 respondents completed the survey.
Over half of the respondents didn’t understand the difference between a “Board-Certified” plastic surgeon or someone who might call themselves a cosmetic surgeon. In truth, surgeons need at least six years of residency training to be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). This compares to only one year for certification by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS). But these are not comparable organizations — the American Board of Medical Specialties does not recognize ABCS certification.
As you would assume, one year of surgical experience is hardly enough, but patients see the doctor is “board-certified,” not understanding it is the ABCS board, which is not a certification by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
With the growing demand for cosmetic procedures, there is the financial motive for physicians to add these surgeries to their practices. The study’s author, Dr. Rod J. Rohrich, editor-in-chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, comments, “A growing number of physicians without training in plastic and reconstructive surgery are performing surgery to improve one’s appearance, often at the expense of patient safety and outcomes.”
Dr. Rohrich explains how they are doing this. “With the current system, physicians can capitalize on confusing jargon to convince patients that they are appropriately qualified to perform the procedures they advertise their expertise in,” he says.
The key for patients is to do their homework, and have cosmetic surgery performed by surgeons who are Board-Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Dr. Jennifer Walden is board-certified in plastic surgery from the ABPS.