If you were looking for a swim coach, would you choose Michael Jordan? Not if Michael Phelps were available. If you wanted to order a wedding cake, you would probably steer clear of the butcher and head straight for the top pastry chef. So if you want plastic surgery, it makes sense to go to a plastic surgeon and skip the gynecologist or general surgeon dabbling in cosmetic surgery.
But what exactly is a plastic surgeon? These days that’s not such a simple question, since legally anyone with a license to practice medicine can say, “I’m a plastic surgeon.” So a family practitioner, a gynecologist, or a dentist can claim to be a plastic surgeon.
After completing high school, plastic surgeons spend about 17 years in school and training until they can become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery signifies that a physician has undergone the years of rigorous training in the only plastic surgery program approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The American Board of Medical Specialties is the most widely accepted barometer of the rigor, quality, depth, and breadth of training programs.
Like pilots who have trained in the Naval Flight School, board-certified plastic surgeons have been trained not only in technique, but also in judgment (such as when not to operate), in difficult cases, and in complications. The American Board of Plastic Surgeons certifies fully trained plastic surgeons only after they pass a comprehensive written examination, an oral examination administered by national experts, and a thorough review of an applicant’s surgical cases. Don’t be fooled by sound-alike boards! There is only one American Board of Plastic Surgery.
While a plastic surgeon could be technically taught to do a heart transplant, I bet you’d want a board-certified heart surgeon to perform your heart transplant. Why? Because you’d want someone trained to be able to handle any problems or difficulties. While physicians who are experts in other specialties can learn the steps of a breast augmentation or a tummy tuck, their patients will be much more likely to have unsatisfactory results or complications.
So if you’re a basketball player, hire Michael Jordan as your coach, but if you’re a swimmer, you’re better off hiring Michael Phelps.