Schedule Your Appointment Today (305) 858-8222

All That Glitters Is Not Gold And Not All Cosmetic Surgeons Are Plastic Surgeons

Submitted by Bernabe Vazquez on September 27, 2012

By: Dr. Bernabe Vazquez, MD, FACS

Every day the public is confronted by a barrage of advertising promoting plastic surgery yet is the surgery being performed by a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon?

What would your reaction be if you found out that your plumber or electrician was really a pizza delivery guy? Don’t even start with who you would expect to be flying the commercial airplane you just boarded your family into. We assume, rightfully and deservedly that the people we trust with performing a task are indeed who they say they are with the adequate training and certification required.

What then is the problem with Plastic Surgery? One would assume that the terms Plastic Surgery, Cosmetic Surgery, and Aesthetic Surgery are synonymous and describe the same activity and actually they do. Unfortunately, what is not the same is who is performing these surgeries.

In Florida, any physician can claim to be a Cosmetic Surgeon, an Aesthetic Surgeon and even claim to practice Plastic Surgery without having completed any formal training in plastic surgery. Believe it or not, the only requirement for a doctor to practice plastic surgery in Florida is to have a general medical license.

This is just where it starts to get tricky. Although a doctor cannot advertise himself as a Plastic Surgeon unless he is truly Board Certified or Board Eligible in plastic surgery, he can however, call himself a Cosmetic Surgeon or an Aesthetic Surgeon. In other words, as long as he specifically does not claim to be a plastic surgeon he can function as one! This is obviously an extreme perversion of the spirit and letter of the law but it’s the reality we live here in our state.

Ineffective attempts have been made to control this issue. The most powerful one is a law that any doctor performing a procedure outside of the hospital which involves some type of anesthesia must have privileges at a nearby hospital to perform the same procedure. Unfortunately, even this was watered down by permitting, as an alternative, to have a “transfer agreement” with a nearby hospital to accept any patient that might develop a complication as a result of the surgery performed in his own facility.

Although both are half measures at best, you would think that it would prevent the unqualified from doing surgery for which they never got trained in, right? Wrong again! It appears that the unscrupulous are not limited to doctors pretending to be plastic surgeons but now include smaller hospitals with incredibly lax credentialing standards. These hospitals are actually granting privileges to some under qualified physicians to perform cosmetic surgery at their institutions. The result is that the applying “cosmetic surgeon” receives the privileges and is now compliant with the law. As long as he does not go around specifically claiming to be a Plastic Surgeon he will sail under the radar and right into your computer screen as the latest and greatest.

Until a statue is passed that prohibits any surgeon from doing any cosmetic surgery procedure for which he was not trained and certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, the public will never know if the cosmetic surgery they are considering is going to be done by a plastic surgeon or the pizza delivery guy!