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Real Plastic Surgeons® in San Diego and Your Safety

There are over 100 board certified plastic surgeons within San Diego County. A high number of qualified cosmetic plastic surgeons in one community is good for consumers. However, checking for proper board certification isn’t as simple as you might think.

Finding a board certified plastic surgeon in San Diego isn’t just about opening a phone book, seeing an ad, or going on-line. There are some basic things you should know; otherwise, you can be fooled into choosing a doctor who was actually trained and certified in another specialty. This is important because medical doctors can legally perform a cosmetic surgery procedure for which they are not properly trained! You do not want a pediatrician, for example, performing your liposuction.

Why risk surgery with a doctor who does not have the proper training for the plastic surgery procedure you are considering? To help you understand this complex issue, we put together this primer.

About the ABMS and Board Certification in Plastic Surgery

First of all, there is a trusted national organization to help you. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) recognizes 24 medical specialty boards in the United States. Each of these specialty boards determines who has the proper education and appropriate training to practice in that particular medical specialty. Both cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeons are grouped under the ABMS specialty board for plastic surgery.

Don’t be confused by the hundreds of self-designated medical boards in the U.S.—many of which have applied to the ABMS and been rejected. To find a Real Plastic Surgeon®, you must verify that your physician is board certified by the proper ABMS specialty board, the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).

4 Steps to Verify Your Plastic Surgeon’s Qualifications

  1. Board Certification: Make sure your surgeon is board certified in plastic surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
  2. Professional Societies: Any easy way to check for the above board certification is to find out if your surgeon is a member of one or both of these societies: the ASPS (American Society of Plastic Surgeons) and ASAPS (American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery). Both societies require proper board certification.
  3. Hospital Privileges: Ask if your surgeon has “staff” privileges at a local, recognized hospital.
  4. Facility Accreditation: Check if your surgeon operates in hospital operating rooms or in facilities accredited by an independent organization like AAAASF, JCAHO, Medicare, or AAAHC.

Following is more detail on each of the above points.

#1: Board Certification in Plastic Surgery

You can check any doctor’s medical board certification by going to the ABMS website at abms.org or by calling the organization’s number at 1-866-ASK-ABMS (275-2267).

Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), which is a specialty board of the ABMS, means that the surgeon has completed undergraduate college, medical school, an approved general surgery residency of at least three years, and an approved plastic surgery residency of an additional two to three years. Board certification in plastic surgery can then be obtained only after the candidate has been in plastic surgery practice for at least two years and has passed rigorous written and oral examinations administered by experienced plastic surgeons.

While doctors in specialties other than plastic surgery can and do perform cosmetic procedures, the doctors best qualified to perform these procedures are, in our opinion, the surgeons most thoroughly trained in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery procedures—plastic surgeons! Because doctors trained in non-surgical specialties like dermatology or internal medicine can legally (under state medical board rules and regulations) perform surgical procedures, consumers must be aware of the differences in qualification.

There are no regulations that prevent doctors who are not plastic surgeons from taking a course lasting a few days or even a few hours and then advertising themselves as “cosmetic surgeons.” We have found websites of non-plastic surgeons using the word “plastic” in a way that would lead you to believe that they are plastic surgeons. Don’t be fooled! We recommend you go to the source—ABMS—to find out which of the 24 recognized specialty boards has certified the doctor.

#2: Professional Societies

Another strong indicator to a surgeon’s qualifications is membership in a recognized professional society. Check if your surgeon is a member of one or both of these societies: American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) or The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).

  • ASPS: The American Society of Plastic Surgery only accepts doctors who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). ASPS represents the full scope of plastic surgery (reconstructive and aesthetic). On-going continuing medical education by the physician is a requirement of membership.
  • ASAPS: The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery also only accepts doctors who are certified by the ABPS. ASAPS members are fully trained in both reconstructive and plastic surgery, but have a special interest in “aesthetic” plastic surgery procedures.

Here are the two logos for these organizations:

asps logo asaps logo

These logos are easily recognizable, so look for them on websites and in ads. This is an easy way to determine if your surgeon is a board certified plastic surgeon, as only physicians who are board certified in plastic surgery can be members. Membership in either or both of these societies assures you that you’re choosing a surgeon who has years of surgical training, participates in on-going education, and meets the ethical and professional standards set by each society.

#3: Hospital Privileges

All of our communities have accredited hospitals where doctors attain what are known as “hospital privileges.” In order to achieve this status, a doctor has to formally apply to the hospital. In this process, the hospital requires that the physician submit medical and licensure data, as well as prove their ability and training in the medical procedures of their specialty. Through this process, the hospital guarantees that their operating room facilities are only going to be used by surgeons fully trained in specific medical operations. So a heart surgeon isn’t going to do brain surgery and vice versa.

Since most cosmetic surgery procedures are performed in office-based or independent surgical facilities, you may find doctors without hospital privileges doing a procedure in a non-hospital setting. Certain off-site surgical accreditation organizations (such as AAAASF) require hospital privileges as part of their criteria for approval. If you are unsure of a physician’s hospital status for any procedure you are considering, ask for a copy of his or her “hospital privileges” report.

#4: Facility Accreditation

If you are having your surgery done in a non-hospital based facility, you want to be sure that it is accredited by one of the following organizations: AAAASF, JHACO, Medicare, or AAAHC. Find out more in our page about understanding facility accreditation.

LJCSC Surgeons Are Real Plastic Surgeons®

We trademarked the phrase Real Plastic Surgeons® some years ago to underscore the importance of a surgeon’s board certification, training, and experience. At La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre, all of our plastic surgeons have the board certification described above. They are board certified by the ABPS. All of our board certified plastic surgeons have hospital privileges at Scripps Memorial Hospital. And our facility has on-site operating rooms that are accredited by AAAASF.

We hope you choose a surgeon at La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre, but even if you don’t, you should still use the criterion listed here to choose your surgeon. Ask questions and be sure that you are under the care of a highly trained and experienced plastic surgeon. We strongly believe this will help you obtain the best and safest medical care. To learn more or to set up a free consultation appointment with one of our board certified plastic surgeons, please call us at (858) 452-1981. We also invite you to learn more about our top-notch practice through our website.

Note: This article reflects our opinions and beliefs about the topics covered herein.