What are the differences between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon?
Posted December 16, 2015
I am frequently asked what the difference is between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon. While there are several important differences, the main difference is our training. Following completion of medical school, a board-certified plastic surgeon serves first as a surgical resident for at least three years where they undergo rigorous training in all aspects of surgery and then three years of focused plastic surgery training. This is a key differentiator between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon.
To become a board certified plastic surgeon I had to finish an accredited residency in plastic surgery. To be accredited, the residency program must be recognized by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and provide appropriate exposure in all areas of plastic surgery, including: craniofacial surgery (cleft lips, cleft palates, and other birth defects), breast reconstruction, microvascular surgery, hand surgery, burn care, wound care, replant surgery and of course, cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery is only one of six required training categories for a plastic surgeon. The total training period for a plastic surgeon is usually six to eight years.
After training, a board certified plastic surgeon is then required to pass a written examination prior to sitting for a two-day oral exam. In addition to passing the written and oral exams, the plastic surgeon must submit a list of every patient and type of surgery he has performed for the first two years in practice. The board also judges whether the number and variety of cases merit board certification.
A cosmetic surgeon is a doctor who has undergone a residency in another field other than plastic surgery. Most common fields are: dermatology, ENT, ophthalmology, oral surgery, gynecology and emergency room medicine. These doctors may be board certified in their respective fields but not by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Some of these doctors may have completed a year of training in cosmetic procedures but it is not necessary unless they want to be board certified as a cosmetic surgeon.
A patient should be aware that all plastic surgeons have had to go through the rigorous training I described above and all plastic surgeons have had extensive training in cosmetic surgery. However, not all doctors marketing themselves as a cosmetic surgeon have been trained extensively in cosmetic procedures.
We at Bellissimo Plastic Surgery have put together a checklist for anyone interested in a cosmetic procedure that will help them directly compare qualities for each surgeon. These are qualities that we feel are paramount that any surgeon possess, including ourselves.