What's the Difference Between a Cosmetic Surgeon and a Plastic Surgeon?
I want to talk a little bit about plastic surgery versus cosmetic surgery and why that is confusing and why it doesn’t have to be. There is a specific Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties called the American Board of Plastic Surgery. It’s been around since the 1930s. It’s the true Granddaddy of specialty boards that everybody thinks as board certified.
There’s a new board created, I think in the 80s, like 84, 85, called the Cosmetic Surgery Board that’s not part of the American Board of Medical Specialties that was strictly created to certify people who wanted to do cosmetic surgery, like facelifts, tummy tucks, liposuction, which has traditionally been part of plastic surgery.
The problem is the qualifications for these two different boards are wildly different. Here is Tulsa, where I am, there’s a fellowship program that has cranked out cosmetic surgeons whose basic training in medicine was family medicine. Or there’s one that was an emergency room doctor. It doesn’t matter the background, they will claim to turn you into a true surgeon with a one-year fellowship. Now, my training involved four years of medical school, five years of general surgery, and two years in plastic surgery. That’s a total of seven years of surgical training to get me where I am.
I think it was worth it. And I think, for patients it is worth it. You want somebody that’s done all that stuff. The argument on the other side is that my training involved a lot of stuff that’s not cosmetic surgery. I’ve fixed gunshot wounds. I’ve fixed broken legs. Moved muscles off of abdomens with microsurgery down to cover bones that had all the tissue stripped off of them. Why does that matter? It matters because that basic knowledge of the deep anatomy is in there. I had to learn all that stuff not once, not twice, but over and over and over to solve problems. So if I’m doing a tummy tuck and I run into a hernia, I’ve fixed 500 hernias when I was a general surgeon. I know exactly what to do with that. I know exactly how to do it. If I was a dermatologist who’d been through one year of cosmetic fellowship, I would no more know how to do that than the man in the moon. What you get is good training in plastic surgery. To claim that it is not relevant training is absolutely wrong. That’s my opinion. Thought I’d share it.