The Difference Between Plastic Surgeons and Cosmetic Surgeons

If this is the supposed “information age” why is there so much misinformation being spread about? When you have politicians, certain “news” sources, and other outlets that make outright lying their modus operandi, a line seems to have been crossed. 

The aesthetic world isn’t immune to such misinformation. In this industry, you may see advertisements for doctors claiming to be “board certified” cosmetic surgeons. These claims may not mean to be an overt lie, but they certainly use misinformation in making their claim. 

This recurring issue has been the subject of a story in the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. The story discussed a recent study showing that consumers don’t understand the difference between the terms “plastic surgeon” and “cosmetic surgeon.” But the difference is huge and can have a real impact on outcomes for unsuspecting patients having cosmetic surgery. 

Dr. Kearney is a double Board Certified plastic surgeon and general surgeon with the requisite training and experience required to attain these certifications. To help his patients understand the differences in certification, here’s a breakdown of the story and the study. 

Just what is Board Certified? 

Due to the manner in which some unscrupulous doctors have misconstrued the board certification process, the ASPS and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery felt the need to conduct a study. Researchers designed an Internet survey to assess public perceptions of plastic or cosmetic surgery. A total of 5,135 respondents completed the survey. 

Over half of the respondents didn’t understand the difference between a “Board Certified” plastic surgeon or someone who might call themselves a cosmetic surgeon. In truth, surgeons need at least six years of residency training to be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). This compares to only one year for certification by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS). But these are not comparable organizations — the American Board of Medical Specialties does not recognize ABCS certification. 

One year of surgical experience is hardly enough, but patients see the doctor is “board certified,” not understanding it is the ABCS board, which is a basically worthless, and unrecognized, certification. This is a ploy used by ethically challenged doctors to claim experience that they don’t really have. 

With the growing demand for cosmetic procedures there is a serious financial motive for physicians to add these surgeries to their practices. The study’s author, Dr. Rod J. Rohrich, editor-in-chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, comments, “A growing number of physicians without training in plastic and reconstructive surgery are performing surgery to improve one’s appearance, often at the expense of patient safety and outcomes.” 

Dr. Rohrich explains how they are doing this. “With the current system, physicians can capitalize on confusing jargon to convince patients that they are appropriately qualified to perform the procedures they advertise their expertise in,” he says. 

The key for patients is to do their homework, and have cosmetic surgery performed by surgeons who are Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Kearney is double Board Certified, both in “plastic surgery” from the ASPS, and in “general surgery” from the American Board of Surgery. 

Dr. Kearney always wants his patients to be knowledgeable about any procedures they are considering. Plus, he wants them to know the level of his training and expertise, especially when compared to those over-representing their credentials. Trust Dr. Kearney’s extensive training and experience to deliver the results you seek. Call us for a consultation, (858) 677-9352.

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