What is a Cosmetic Surgeon and the Importance of the Endorsement Model

The Facts about Why you would choose a Cosmetic Surgeon.

When considering cosmetic surgery, people are most universally unaware of the difference between “cosmetic” surgery and “plastic surgery”. For this reason, they are easily misled to believe board certification in plastic surgery evidences a physician’s competence to perform cosmetic surgery.

The following information is provided by Cosmetic Surgeon Dr. Bobby A. Kumar to help you make an informed decision when choosing the best cosmetic surgeon for your cosmetic procedure.

The current move by medical regulators to adopt an endorsement model to identify only those surgeons that have received specific training in Cosmetic Surgery will provide patients with the ability to recognise these trained surgeons.

How to choose your Cosmetic Surgeon as you would choose any other Healthcare provider

Choosing a doctor for any healthcare need is an important decision. Patients should choose a healthcare provider based on his or her training, education, experience and demonstrated practice history; the criteria most often used by hospitals in delineating clinical privileges.

 False Messages Misinform Patients 

 Patients considering cosmetic surgery are almost universally unaware of the difference between “cosmetic” surgery and “plastic” surgery. For this reason, they are easily misled to believe board certification in plastic surgery evidences a physician’s competence to perform cosmetic surgery. It does not, in fact many plastic surgeons are not trained in Cosmetic Surgery. Importantly, with an expanding number of patients choosing to undergo cosmetic surgery and a highly competitive pool of physicians, it is imperative patients have access to accurate information. It is equally imperative patients have the freedom to choose among competitors and that the number of qualified providers is not artificially restricted. Unfortunately, the public almost universally equates cosmetic and plastic surgery as one and the same. Patients’ misapprehension in this regard has them relying on incomplete and false information when choosing a physician to perform their cosmetic procedure.


 The Differences between Cosmetic Surgery and Plastic Surgery

Cosmetic surgery is a subspecialty that uniquely restricts itself to the enhancement of appearance through surgical and medical techniques. It is specifically concerned with maintaining normal appearance, restoring it, or enhancing it toward some aesthetic ideal. Cosmetic surgery is a multi-disciplinary and comprehensive approach directed to all areas of the head, neck and body. Cosmetic surgery is practiced by surgeons from a variety of disciplines including board-certified dermatologists, general surgeons, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, ophthalmologists, otolaryngologists, gynaecologist and some plastic surgeons and physicians from other fields. All of these disciplines hove contributed to the vital growth of cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery is primarily learned during a surgeon’s post residency through ongoing continuing education, training, and experience.

Plastic surgery deals with the repair, reconstruction or replacement of physical defects of form or function involving the skin, musculoskeletal system, craniomaxillofacial structure, hand extremities, breast and trunk and external genitalia. While board certification by the Australian Board of Plastic Surgery may evidence a physician competent in “plastic surgery only,” it does not evidence competency in “cosmetic surgery” nor does it demonstrate more “cosmetic surgery” education, training or experience than that of a board-certified dermatologist, general surgeon, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, otolaryngologists or ophthalmologist.

Many board-certified plastic surgeons choose the terms “plastic” and “cosmetic” in order to represent their certification in plastic surgery as evidence of their competency to perform “cosmetic” procedures. The spreading of this misconception reduces patient choice and jeopardizes patient safety.

The “message” often repeated in various forums and published in advertisements by various board-certified plastic surgeons across the country over the past several decades falsely and deceptively informs patients that:

  • 1. Certification by the Australian Board of Plastic Surgery evidences competency in cosmetic surgery.
  • 2. Physicians who are not certified by the Australian Board of Plastic Surgery are not competent to perform cosmetic surgery.
  • 3. The Australian Board of Plastic Surgery is the only “recognized” board with regard to the practice of cosmetic surgery.
  • 4. The term “plastic surgery” is synonymous with “cosmetic surgery” or that the term “plastic surgeon” is synonymous with “cosmetic surgeon”.

This misinformation has patients believing that when searching for a cosmetic surgeon to perform cosmetic surgery, they must look only to the universe of Board Certified Plastic Surgeons and that they cannot find a competent cosmetic surgeon among board- certified dermatologists, general surgeons, ophthalmologists, otolaryngologists or other surgeons.

This message, which directs patients to consider only board certified plastic surgeons when searching for a qualified cosmetic surgeon, is false and harms patients in two ways:

  1. Patient Choice among Qualified Cosmetic Surgeons. There are many extremely qualified cosmetic surgeons who are not board-certified in plastic surgery. In fact, many cosmetic procedures were developed by physicians from specialties other than plastic surgery. Residency programs, whether in dermatology, general surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, otolaryngology or plastic surgery, do not encompass significant training in the vast array of cosmetic procedures and certainly do not provide adequate training to render a graduate prepared to practice cosmetic surgery. Surgeons develop their cosmetic surgical skills through post residency training and experience. Accordingly, to identify the most qualified surgeon for any given cosmetic procedure, one must look to and compare surgeons’ post residency training, experience and practice history. Therefore, a patient may find that the most qualified surgeon available in their community to perform a breast augmentation is a board-certified general surgeon; the most qualified surgeon available to perform a chemical peel may be a board-certified otolaryngologist; or the most qualified surgeon available to perform cervicofacial liposuction may be a board-certified plastic surgeon. The point is that a cosmetic surgeon’s skill and ability will depend on the surgeon’s cosmetic surgery training and experience, not on his or her core board-certification. Patients led to consider only board-certified plastic surgeons rely on irrelevant criteria and, accordingly, have their choice among qualified cosmetic surgeons greatly reduced.
  2. Patients are being directed to Potentially Inexperienced Physicians for Their Cosmetic Surgery. A physician may complete a plastic surgery residency, qualify for the Australian Board of Plastic Surgery board exam, and become board-certified in plastic surgery without ever performing or receiving training with respect to many common cosmetic procedures. While competence in cosmetic surgery is determined by a physician’s training, experience and judgment, this message has patients believing that board-certification in plastic surgery is the golden seal when seeking a cosmetic surgeon.

Bestowing expertise and competency upon physicians who may be unqualified (e.g. board certified plastic surgeons with inadequate or no training with respect to a given cosmetic procedure) places patients at risk.

To give a practical application of how the message impacts patients, consider an individual seeking to undergo a blepharoplasty (cosmetic eyelid surgery) in a community where ten cosmetic surgeons are available two dermatologists, two general surgeons, two ophthalmologists, two otolaryngologists and two plastic surgeons. The “message” proffered by many board-certified plastic surgeons would have the patient choose from the two plastic surgeons and ignore the other eight cosmetic surgeons, regardless of whether the other cosmetic surgeons may have more training, education and experience performing blepharoplasty procedures and regardless of whether the plastic surgeons may have never performed a single blepharoplasty procedure.

Patients who are planning to have Cosmetic Surgery should consider the following:

The blepharoplasty patient should consider the training, education, experience and demonstrated practice history of all ten cosmetic surgeons in the area. More importantly, the true message all cosmetic surgery patients should understand is that there are qualified cosmetic surgeons from various disciplines with various board certifications and there are board-certified physicians from those disciplines who are not qualified to perform cosmetic surgery.

Understanding what is the Difference between Cosmetic Surgery and Plastic Surgery

The Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery and Medicine is a professional medical society whose members are dedicated to patient safety and physician education in cosmetic surgery. Most members of ACCSM are dermatologic surgeons, facial plastic surgeons, head and neck surgeons, gynaecologist, general surgeons, plastic surgeons or ocular plastic surgeons – all of whom specialize in cosmetic surgery. ACCSM is the organization that represents cosmetic surgeons in the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Medical Council.

For more information regarding the endorsement model and how this will protect patients click the following media release from the ACCSM.

Endorsement model Q & A

Interested in the next step?
Please get in touch to arrange an appointment
Contact us