We are not the same! Okay so i’ll give you this, there are many plastic surgeons who refer to themselves as cosmetic surgeons so I can understand why it can be confusing. We also drill home the fact that you should only trust someone who is board-eligible or board-certified. The tricky thing is what that board is makes all the difference. Some are just not legit and some are not relevant. So let me break it down for you, because, well it’s important.
1. Both Plastic and Cosmetic surgeons have completed a residency. The difference is what that residency is. Plastic surgeons do 3-6 years of dedicated plastic surgery training. Cosmetic surgeons on the other hand can complete a residency in ANYTHING. What is that anything? Family medicine, general surgery, ob/gyn, internal medicine (Quick reminder that none of those teach about the anatomy or fundamentals of plastic surgery) In fact, some are not even surgical. They then choose to do one year of additional cosmetic training. This can include anything from being in the operating room to office procedures. None of which is regulated by our umbrella organization. What’s this you might ask? Keep reading!
2. While we all advertise that we are Board certified, the actual board is important. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is not an official board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). This is our umbrella organization that all “real” medical specialties are under. It ensures we have trained in standardized programs, are boarded by our respective medical boards to ensure we practice safe medicine, and maintain this certification throughout our careers by staying up to date on the latest research and innovations. So, essentially, saying you are boarded by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery doesn’t mean anything. And while they may be board-certified in their respective fields (general surgery, family medicine, etc) which is legit, does it really matter if they are trying to operate on you and have no real surgical training?
3. Reminder!! Plastic surgeons go through a 3-6+ year residency period. Our programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) so we have minimum number of surgeries we must complete we must be proficient in. We have yearly exams that test our knowledge base during our residencies. We then have to pass a written board exam and an oral board exam after we’ve been practicing for 1 year. After all that, we still have to maintain our certifying medical education credits and recertify every 10 years. Woah! That’s alot but when you are talking about patients lives, it’s actually not at all.
4. Another reminder! Cosmetic surgeons don’t do any of the above! And if they do (in their respective fields) it’s not in plastic surgery.
So let me ask you this. Who do you want to operate on you or your loved ones?
Stay informed, do your research , ask questions. It can all be confusing but be your best advocate.