Know Your Physician

With the growing popularity of cosmetic surgery, it is now more important than ever to have the utmost confidence in your plastic surgeon. It is wise to spend five minutes looking at your physician's qualifications because you will spend a lifetime staring at his or her results in the mirror. At a minimum, you should be sure to research the doctor's qualifications and medical record with the American Board of Plastic Surgery, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and the Oklahoma Medical Board. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is a great resource for finding more information on general plastic surgery as well as procedural information and statistics.

In addition, understand that there is a significant difference between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon. Any physician can claim to be a cosmetic surgeon - regardless of their actual training. In fact, most physicians who advertise as cosmetic surgeons trained in fields other than plastic surgery. Only those physicians who have been trained in an accredited plastic surgery residency program can claim to be plastic surgeons. The title plastic surgeon represents the highest degree of professional certification. Always choose a board-certified plastic surgeon.

"Established in 1933, the American Board of Medical Specialties, a not-for-profit organization comprising 24 medical specialty Member Boards, is the pre-eminent entity overseeing the certification of physician specialists in the United States. ABMS is a designated primary equivalent source of credential information. An ABMS board certified specialist participates in an ongoing process of continuing education to keep current with the latest advances in medical science and technology in his or her specialty as well as best practices in patient safety, quality healthcare and creating a responsive patient-focused environment . To maintain board certification, your physician participates in an extensive process that involves completing accredited education and specialty training and periodic oral and written exams to demonstrate competency."(1)

Please be careful when you see "Board Certified" after a MD's name. Not all "boards" are held to the same standards as those maintained by the ABMS. More than 100 "boards" have been submitted to the ABMS for formal approval, but only 24 have met their strict educational and examination criteria. Other boards have less strict criteria for certification, and some require only a fee without proof of adequate training. Contact the ABMS at 1-866-275-2267 to see if your physician's "board" is a member board of ABMS.

The American Board of Plastic Surgery is an ABMS-recognized board. To become board-certified by theAmerican Board of Plastic Surgery, a physician must complete five to seven years of surgical training. At least two of those years must be specifically devoted to the field of plastic surgery at an accredited plastic surgery residency program. A physician must then pass both a written and oral examination administered by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. You may call the ABMS at 1-866-275-2267 to see if your surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

The single most important action a patient can take to insure the adequacy of their physician's training is to make sure he or she has operating and admitting privileges at a nearby major metropolitan hospital. Beware of physicians who only perform procedures in their office-based surgery center and not in a major metropolitan hospital. This is important for two reasons. First, hospitals have already thoroughly researched a doctor's qualifications. They require more stringent qualifications and training for a physician to be able to operate at their facilities. If a physician only operates in an office-based facility and does not have privileges at a nearby hospital to perform the proposed procedure, his or her training is probably less than adequate. Secondly, remember that cosmetic surgery is still surgery, and complications can occur. A physician's lack of hospital admitting privileges for those procedures invites the question for a patient, "If a rare but serious complication arises after my operation, how will I be admitted to the hospital, and who will care for me?" If your physician does not have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, he or she cannot care for you either in the emergency room or the hospital. In the case of a complication, you would therefore have to go to the nearest emergency room and be seen by a physician who actually does have privileges there.

Ask your physician in what hospital they have privileges. Call that hospital yourself and ask if your physician has operating privileges specifically for the procedure you are planning to have.Remember: a physician may have privileges at a nearby hospital for various procedures, but not for the one you are planning on having.

Do your research. It's your body, you deserve the best.

(1) American Board of Medical Specialties (www.abms.org)

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