Although I’m likely to be “preaching to the choir” with this post, you may have friends and family members who are seeking plastic cosmetic surgery and are uninformed about the differences between a “plastic surgeon” and a “cosmetic surgeon.” Since the cosmetic surgeons have their own organization (AACS) and their own “board certification” process, this has further added to the confusion about training and, hence, the safety and satisfaction issues of working with a board certified plastic surgeon vs a board certified cosmetic surgeon. You may wish to share the following information with them.
In order to practice, all physicians in America must, at a bare minimum, be licensed to practice medicine in their respective state. Board certification takes this a step further.
Requirements To Become a Board Certified Cosmetic Surgeon
According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, the following specialists can apply for board certification under their umbrella once they have completed an approved ACGME or AOA residency program in one of the following surgical specialties: General surgery; plastic surgery; neurological surgery; obstetrics and gynecology; orthopedic surgery; otolaryngology; thoracic surgery; urology; ophthalmology (after completing an American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Inc. (ASOPRS) approved oculoplastic fellowship or an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) approved Oculofacial Plastic fellowship.
Once a candidate has completed residency training in one of the above specialties, they can apply to an AACS certified cosmetic surgery fellowship, a full-time training program lasting at least 1 to 2 years, depending on the surgeon’s initial residency training. During a cosmetic surgery fellowship, surgeons must perform at least 300 individual cosmetic surgery cases. The final step is examination by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery to receive ABCS board certification.
Requirements To Become a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
According to the American Board of Plastic Surgery, to be board certified in plastic surgery, the physician must have graduated from an accredited medical school, plus completion of a 6 year surgeon training program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or at least 5 years in a program accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. This residency focuses on all areas of surgery but at least 3 years must be devoted solely to plastic surgery, which includes reconstructive plastic surgery as well as plastic surgery that is strictly cosmetic, for a total minimum of 300 cases.
Once this has been accomplished, the candidate must pass both written and oral exams on cosmetic, reconstructive, craniomaxillofacial and extremity surgery.
Notice The Differences
- Board certified plastic surgeons must complete a 6-year surgeon training program, with 3 years devoted solely to plastic surgery (reconstructive and cosmetic)
- Board certified cosmetic surgeons are required to complete a full-time program for 1-2 years, none of which requires training in reconstructive surgery.
The Bottom Line
If you or a loved one required heart surgery, would you prefer a heart surgeon who had studied for 1-2 years in that specialty or one who had studied for 6 years? Do your cosmetic surgery goals deserve the same training? Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Look for membership in the association that requires the most training, which is the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. It’s your assurance that the highest demands of training, examination and personal character have been met.
To Your Health & Beauty,
Gus Galante, MD, FACS
Board Certified NW Indiana Plastic Surgeon