What Really is a Plastic Surgeon?

Learn the difference between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery.

Have you ever been to a plastic surgeon? Are you sure? There are so many different doctors that call themselves plastic surgeons that it is pretty difficult to know who is the real deal. Let’s sort out the details.

The field of plastic surgery is the only part of surgery that knows no boundaries. So, while neurosurgeons operate on the brain, cardiac surgeons operate on the heart, and urologists operate on the prostate, plastic surgeons operate from the top of the head to the tips of the toes.

It takes six years to train a plastic surgeon, and those training programs are the hottest items to snag. Thousands of medical students compete for the couple of hundred of coveted plastic surgery slots. Plastic surgeons learn how to do facelifts and liposuction and all of those trendy cosmetic procedures. And they also fix tendons in the hand, repair cleft lips, do sex changes, face transplants, save burn victims, reconstruct breasts and act as the general fix-it man in the OR. Plastic surgeons pride themselves on being able to fix virtually any wound in the body.

What Really is a Plastic Surgeon?

But it’s the part of plastic surgery known as cosmetic surgery that attracts most of the media’s attention. And because this part of plastic surgery is paid for in cold, hard cash, instead of the ever-tightening insurance dollars, everyone from dermatologists to family doctors, to otolaryngologists, to dentists want to get in on the act. And that is why it becomes hard to tell who’s who without a program.

After residency, plastic surgeons think it is their highest priority to take an oral and written test called the “boards”. If they pass, and only about 80 percent do, they call themselves “Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc.” If they have that credential, you know they are real plastic surgeons. 

MORE: Will Plastic Surgery Make You Happier?

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