Published August 6, 2008 By Adam Lowenstein

Plastic surgery in Santa Barbara- what’s in a name?

The term plastic surgeon is getting more confusing to understand, every day. Cosmetic surgery, cosmetic medicine, plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery, facial plastic surgery- many patients, and unfortunately some physicians, are using these terms interchangeably.

This is largely because any physician with a medical license can call themselves anything they want. A general surgeon can advertise themselves as a plastic surgeon. So can a physician who is trained in obstetrics and gynecology. A family medicine physician, who has a very limited training or experience in invasive medicine, nonetheless surgery, can even advertise under a variety of self-deemed terms from cosmetic surgeon to plastic surgeon. And in fact, it’s hard to blame them.

Plastic surgery is one of the few specialties that has such a large number of procedures that are done electively, and outside the deteriorating auspices of medical insurance companies. Physicians specializing in internal medicine, family medicine, and other primary care specialties are seeing less and less reimbursement for their work, which is critical to the well being of so many patients. In Santa Barbara, we are seeing more and more physicians move toward “Boutique” practices in order to afford to be able to provide primary care in their respective fields.

As physician reimbursement declines, I’m not going to be surprised if this in fact gets worse, rather than better. As some physicians choose to charge a premium for their specialized services in the boutique market, others will increasingly try to broaden their patient base by fostering “cosmetic” services despite the lack of background and training. And there are aspects of corporate America that are fueling the fire. There has been a liposuction company that has recruited OBGYN physicians to relatively brief training courses in order to increase their market share of the liposuction machines that are being used. As you can imagine, this takes a financial reimbursement problem and broadens the issues to patient safety and medical ethics.

This being said, you must also remember that there are some ethical, well trained medical specialists performing cosmetic medicine and cosmetic surgery within their areas of expertise. Examples of this are dermatologists trained in aesthetic skin care and who perform soft tissue injectables, or otolaryngologists who have done substantial further training in facial plastic surgery and are fully qualified to perform cosmetic surgery on the head and neck. When seeing these physicians, an inquiry into their certification and training should return to you a comfort level commensurate with the procedure that they are performing. Similarly, a fully trained plastic surgeon such as my partner or myself has undergone extensive training in plastic surgery of the face, head, neck, breast, and body, as well as injectables like Botox, and facial fillers such as Restylane and Juvederm.

None the less, all of this unfortunately increases the burden of education on you, the consumer. It’s no longer enough to look in the yellow pages under Santa Barbara plastic surgeon. Ask your physician how they were certified to perform the procedures that they do. What is their board certification and by what Board? Remember that many times “Board Certified” does not mean that the physician was certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Other boards have been established in order to enable non-plastic surgery trained physicians to claim that they are “Board Certified”. Make certain that there is pertinent substance behind the Board that certifies your caregiver.

As you can find elsewhere on our website, certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is the best bet for you to be assured of your physician’s area of expertise. This certification cannot be awarded to any physician that has not met the strict criteria of education and ethics that is established by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Please click here for more information about finding the right plastic surgeon for you.

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