It is a common caution to people searching for a plastic surgeon: make sure you use a board-certified plastic surgeon rather than a self-styled "cosmetic surgeon." Although plastic surgery is a specialization recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, cosmetic surgery is not. Consequently, any doctor who has been certified to practice in the state can say he or she is a cosmetic surgeon.
If you have your surgery performed by a cosmetic surgeon, your doctor may actually be a regular surgeon, an ophthalmologist, an otolaryngologist, or even a general practitioner. None of these doctors, though potentially highly qualified in their respective fields, has been trained in either the aesthetics or the pragmatics of plastic surgery. Plastic surgeons have honed their skills in additional residencies and been tested on plastic surgery concepts.
The situation is very similar in South Africa, where doctors of any description commonly advertise themselves as cosmetic surgeons. However, the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has vowed to crack down on doctors who practice outside their area. The HPCSA has stated, "Only specialists in plastic surgery may perform cosmetic surgery on those requiring it." In this, South Africa is a step ahead of the United States, because it has defined cosmetic surgery as specifically a subset of plastic surgery, and therefore has grounds to pursue practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery without being plastic surgeons.
Perhaps the United States should follow a similar course of action. To many people outside the profession, the terms plastic surgeon and cosmetic surgeon are interchangeable, so distinguishing between a board-certified plastic surgeon and a self-styled board-certified cosmetic surgeon (who may actually be a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist) can be difficult. We should eliminate this confusion by recognizing cosmetic surgery as a subset of plastic surgery and only allowing board-certified plastic surgeons to advertise and perform these procedures.
If you are interested in plastic or cosmetic surgery, work with a board-certified plastic surgeon like New York plastic surgeon Dr. George Lefkovits. If you would like to learn more about the importance of working with a board-certified plastic surgeon, please schedule a consultation with our office today.