The Myth of the “Cosmetic” Surgeon

One of the biggest scams in contemporary medicine is the notion that anyone can do plastic surgery if they take a weekend course and choose to call themselves a “cosmetic” surgeon.

Why do so many non-plastic surgeons pretend to be plastic surgeons? Because there is a lot of money in it. The answer is simple. Plastic surgery is extremely lucrative. That is why so many doctors who don’t really have the training to do tummy tucks, facelifts, breast augmentations and liposuction are trying to cash in on the work of board-certified plastic surgeons.

First, some background: It is hard to get into medical school. The process was not meant to be easy. The young people who are admitted to medical school are typically very strong academically and very competitive. They get great MCAT scores. They are good at science. They get into a true medical school.

Then they do four years of very difficult work in medical school. Then they go do seven more years of residency training to become plastic surgeons! As a general rule, only the top medical students get into a general surgery residency. That is five years. It takes two more years of specialized training to become a plastic surgeon. These are the people who are qualified to do facelifts, tummy tucks, scar revisions, liposuction, and breast augmentations.

What happens if a family practitioner or dermatologist wants to cash in on the money to be made in plastic surgery? Most of them cannot or will not go back to school to complete seven years of specialized surgical training. So, they take a short course (which they are guaranteed to pass) from a private company offering training in various cosmetic surgeries. They generally expect you to buy their equipment. They have every financial motive make sure you “pass” the training.

And guess what? Most states allow non-plastic surgeons to get away with this. All the doctor has to have is a “medical license” and a foolish patient to do any number of plastic surgery procedures without the requisite training.

Beware of the “cosmetic” surgeon. It is a misleading term. No plastic surgeon who has completed 15 years of post-high school training will ever call themselves a “cosmetic” surgeon.

Almost any doctor with an MD degree (even a family practitioner) can take a course, pay a fee, and suddenly become a “cosmetic” surgeon. The public generally does not know the difference between a “cosmetic” surgeon and a genuine board-certified plastic surgeon.

In our firm, we have seen a family practitioner literally cause the death of a patient who had undergone extensive liposuction. Our client died 12 hours after the liposuction was over because the family practitioner did not know enough about surgery to properly manage the patient’s fluid levels and pain medication during the surgery.

We have new cases now involving a local “naturopath” who pretends to be a plastic surgeon and has basically deformed some of our clients.

Conclusion: If you are going to get plastic surgery, make sure that you get it with a board-certified plastic surgeon. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your “cosmetic” surgeon if he or she is a board-certified plastic surgeon. Look at the doctor’s credentials and make sure they went to medical school, not naturopathic or osteopathic school. It is not good enough if the doctor is board certified in some other area of medicine. You want to look for a board-certified plastic surgeon.

Buyer Beware.

If you feel you have been injured in a situation as described in this blog, contact our office at G. Eric Nielson & Associates for a free consultation. We are here to help.