Screen shot 2012-11-19 at 7.02.08 AMWith all the options available to men and women searching for a Houston plastic surgeon, men and women are often confused about the difference between a cosmetic and a plastic surgeon. Let me help you sift through the confusion and know, once and for all, whether there’s any difference and, if so, what those differences are.

#1: Training
To be designated a plastic surgeon, a physician in the US must graduate from an accredited medical school, pass the license exams for their MD, then spend a total of 7 years, 5 of which are spent in a general surgery residency, followed by two years in a plastic surgery residency, in order to develop all the skills required to perform both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. They must then demonstrate competency in those skills and pass rigorous testing to be designated as a “plastic” surgeon. They become “board certified in plastic surgery” and can then advertise themselves as a “board certified plastic surgeon.”

Although a board certified plastic surgeon might also be called a cosmetic surgeon (some make this choice because they don’t perform reconstructive procedures), a physician who is not board certified (in plastic surgery) can call him- or herself a cosmetic surgeon simply by saying so. In other words, a physician can advertise him or herself as a cosmetic surgeon even if the only post-MD training was a year of general residency (working in a hospital) and a weekend course in liposuction!

So, a cosmetic surgeon could be:

(A) a board certified plastic surgeon whose focus is on cosmetic procedures,

(B) a physician with one year of internship and no other post-med school surgical training or

(C) a physician who is board certified in something other than plastic surgery. Confusing isn’t it? That’s why it’s very important to ask your potential surgeon to verify board certification. If they state they are board certified, make sure they are board certified in plastic surgery if you want to benefit from the many years of training and demonstration of skills that only board certified plastic surgeons possess.

#2: Board Certification
Would you let an unlicensed electrician wire your house, even if a friend told you that person was really good? Would you allow a family doctor to perform heart surgery on you or someone you loved? I’m guessing your answers would be “no” both times. Why? Because you understand that certification assures you that the person you hire, whether it’s an electrician or a plastic surgeon, has been tested and evaluated by others in their field, which gives you a level of confidence that this person knows what he or she is doing, and that you can trust them to know what to do if the job becomes more complicated than it might first appear.

#3: Experience
A board certified plastic surgeon has many years of experience over the course of their extensive training period. They have worked with other board certified plastic surgeons in residency and sometimes in a fellowship (an additional training option following residency). They’ve faced hundreds of different challenges. They know what the options are if something unexpected comes up. They have done dozens, maybe hundreds, of liposuction cases under the tutelage of another surgeon; they didn’t learn how to do lipo in a weekend course. Experience matters.

The bottom line
The Houston surgeon who performs your breast augmentation or liposuction has your body in their hands. Your results are a direct reflection of their training, skill and experience. Further, they have your life in their hands. Don’t you think that you deserve a specialist when considering life-changing transformations to your face, breast or body? I do, and that’s why I became a board certified plastic surgeon.