The death of rap star Kanye West’s mother, Donda—who died just one day after receiving plastic surgery—serves as an important reminder about the dangers inherent in cosmetic procedures. But, even more, the tragedy has sparked a much-needed conversation about how to find the best physician for the job—a task that is, much to the chagrin of the consumer, both confusing and time-consuming.
First off, prospective patients should seek out a doctor who is both trained and experienced. Experience alone doesn’t equal ability, according to Dr. Peter B. Fodor, the former president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and a plastic surgeon based in Los Angeles. “The surgeon could, theoretically, have the experience by doing the wrong thing a thousand times,” he says. Also important: You want a doctor with training and experience in the specific procedure in question. This sounds simple enough: If a patient wants a face-lift, they should seek out a doctor who excels in performing face-lifts. Right?
But in an ultra-competitive profession where every doctor is trying to sell their skills, the real question becomes: How can a patient tell if their physician is really the expert that they claim to be? Here, Dr. Fodor urges: “You must make sure that your doctor is board-certified.” The trouble is, dear consumer, all board certifications are not equal.
“Many people falsely state that they are board-certified in plastic surgery,” the physician warns. “There are as many as 100 bogus—completely fake—boards, and these boards require nothing close to the requirements that one has to fulfill in order to be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.”
To stress this point, Fodor paints a common scenario in the world of plastic surgery: A patient walks into a doctor’s office. They see a “beautiful diploma” on the wall. “That diploma reads ‘Certified in the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery,’” says Fodor. Everything, including the wording on the diploma, looks legitimate.
But in this instance, the framed, stamped and signed certificate is really just a useless slip of fancy paper from a mail-order diploma mill, Fodor says. But how does one know? Simple. Genuine board-certified doctors are credentialed by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, according to Fodor; if you are a potential patient, check that your surgeon’s diploma contains these exact words in this exact order.
Merely searching on the Internet for your doctor’s credentials is not enough, continues Fodor: “Unfortunately, some of these physicians will state on the Internet that they are board certified when they are not.” Beyond studying the doctor’s diploma, prospective patients should also turn to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons at www.plasticsurgery.org to ensure that their physician is really board-certified.
The next step in selecting a physician, says Fodor, is to establish that your potential doctor focuses on the cosmetic aspects of plastic surgery. Doctors who are board-certified in plastic surgery can specialize in either cosmetic or reconstructive surgery.
In this case, the second credential worth checking for is a certification from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. “This society has additional membership requirements—in addition to being board-certified—which focus on specific interests and on training and ability,” says Fodor.
In simple terms: If your physician belongs to the ASAPS, they are guaranteed to be board-certified specialists in the field of cosmetic surgery. And again, exact wording matters, so read the doctor’s credentials closely and don’t hesitate to call the ASAPS to verify your physician’s credentials (1-888-272.7711 or www.surgery.org).
After establishing that your doctor has the proper certifications, training and experience, the next question to ask is: Does my physician work in an accredited facility? Only facilities accredited by the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities are guaranteed to be “equipped with the proper staff and equipment to handle all emergencies related to the possible complication of surgery, including cardiac arrest,” says Dr. Rod J. Rohrich, chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “You have a much higher chance of a having a safe and good outcome [if you undergo a cosmetic surgical procedure] in an accredited facility.”
To verify that a facility is accredited, says Rohrich, check with the ASPS (www.plasticsurgery.org). “Members of the ASPS must operate in an accredited facility,” he says.
It seems that in the world of plastic surgery, at least for now, a smart consumer is a skeptical one.
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