Guide to the Cosmetic Surgery Consultation

Learn how to pick the right plastic surgeon if you’re considering a procedure.

Guide to the Cosmetic Surgery Consultation

It all begins here. You’re unsure whether you really want to have surgery. You’re worried about being too vain. You’re worried about what your spouse, friends, and coworkers will say. You watch those terrible television shows. You go on the Internet and read about the procedure. Your interest is piqued. Then you start looking for a surgeon.

How a Doctor Becomes a Plastic Surgeon
It is important to choose the right plastic surgeon. Certainly, the surgeon’s medical school and residency training give you information about the doctor’s basic intelligence. Chances are good that if the doctor trained at Harvard, he’s not stupid. But that’s only the beginning.

The training of a plastic surgeon is arduous. Only the best graduate from medical school and only the top surgical residents are accepted into plastic surgery residency programs. Most are at the top of their class and were likely inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honor society.

To become a plastic surgeon, a doctor must obtain an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) or a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) degree. Following this, there are several paths the doctor may follow. Many doctors now spend five to six years in an integrated plastic surgery residency, although some complete three years of general surgery and two years in plastic surgery. Alternatively, otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists), orthopedic surgeons (bone doctors), neurosurgeons (brain surgeons), urologists, and oral surgeons with medical as well as dental degrees may enter the two-year plastic surgery residency.

The marathon plastic surgery residency is a grueling learning process. The doctor learns how to take care of patients before, during, and after surgery during the internship, the first year. He learns how to suture and how to stop bleeding, and perfects his skills through animal surgery and computer simulations. In the operating room, interns, under the watchful eye of ‘‘attendings’’ (the fully trained surgeons), perform portions of procedures.

With advancing years comes more responsibility. The education includes rotations in ophthalmology, orthopedics, otolaryngology, and even the medical specialty, dermatology.

By the fourth year of residency, the doctor is immersed in plastic surgery. To gain experience in cosmetic surgery, the fifth- or sixth-year chief resident runs his own clinic, performing discounted-fee surgery. While the new doctor gains experience, this program allows lower income patients to afford cosmetic surgery.

After completion of his residency, the new plastic surgeon may start his own practice, or he may join an established plastic surgeon or the faculty of a medical school or multispecialty group. Alternatively, he may continue his marathon education with another year or two of training, called a fellowship. It can be in cosmetic surgery, hand and microsurgery, burn surgery, craniofacial surgery, or head and neck cancer.

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