The International Business Times recently explored the financial, educational, and ethical factors behind an ongoing debate in their article “Medical Turf Wars: Plastic Surgeons Clash With Other Doctors About Who Can Perform Liposuction And Tummy Tucks.”
Understanding the Issue
The article covers the “state-by-state battle” that’s occurring within the medical community over who is qualified to performed cosmetic surgery procedures, such as breast augmentation or liposuction. At the heart of the main debate are the nuanced differences in education and training between board certified cosmetic surgeons and board certified plastic surgeons. Potential patients often find themselves left feeling confused.
American Board of Cosmetic Surgery president Dr. Samir Pancholi weighed in: “The politics between the two organizations can make selecting a qualified surgeon confusing for patients who are looking for a safe, successful cosmetic surgery result,” he says. “We should be focusing our energy on educating patients to stay away from surgeons with no specialty training and who often perform cosmetic procedures in unsafe environments.”
The Path to Cosmetic Surgery Certification
As the popularity of cosmetic surgery grows and the range of procedures expands, specialized cosmetic surgical training is a necessity. The traditional plastic surgery training and board certification exam focuses largely on reconstructive surgery with a relatively small emphasis on cosmetic procedures.
“The fact that you might be trained in plastic surgery doesn’t mean that you’re competent in cosmetic procedures,” says Dr. Michael Will, president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. For surgeons on the path to board certification in plastic surgery, fellowships offering cosmetic surgery training are available—but this higher level of cosmetic procedure training is not a requirement for board certification in plastic surgery.
An alternative for many surgeons is formal cosmetic surgery fellowship training with subsequent board certification by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS). Candidates must first prove prior board certification in one of seven approved surgical specialties and then complete an extensive one to two year cosmetic surgery training fellowship, which is certified by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS).
Next, the ABCS requires candidates to go through a rigorous examination process and only grants board certification to cosmetic surgeons who can successfully pass all these marks. “What can get confusing to the public is that the plastic surgeons are saying, ‘You should only trust us and no one else,’” Dr.Pancholi points out. “What the ABCS believes is that if you have a physician properly trained in cosmetic surgery, you are more likely to have a better outcome.”