How to Research Board Certified Plastic Surgeons
Researching prospective surgeons' credentials, educational background and malpractice history is an important part of choosing a plastic surgeon to perform your breast augmentation.
For starters, your surgeon must hold a valid license to practice medicine in the state where you have your surgery. A surgeon may be a Medical Doctor (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO), or osteopathic physician. Both medical doctors and osteopathic physicians have attended a four-year undergraduate college with an emphasis on scientific courses. Both complete four years of basic medical education and can specialize after completing a residency program, which requires additional training.
State medical licenses are the minimum standard necessary to practice medicine. Licensing is administered by the states, and the restriction or withdrawal of a license is a matter of public record. The state agency that oversees medical licenses is often the state medical board, or the board of medical examiners. Some states have other titles for the agency that holds this power.
Most states have an online system where you can verify a physician's licensing status online. Board certification is important. Plastic surgeons should be board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Many doctors who perform cosmetic surgery point out that they are board certified while neglecting to specify by which board. The organization that oversees medical specialty boards in the United States is the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The ABMS comprises 24 member boards, including the ABPS. You can verify a plastic surgeon's certification online (www.abms.org) or on the phone by calling 866-ASK-ABMS (866-275-2267).
Malpractice is Tricky
Anyone can file a lawsuit against anyone — even a reputable and talented plastic surgeon. Malpractice lawsuits are sometimes filed because the results were not what the patient expected or because something unforeseen happened that was not the surgeon's fault (but has now become his legal problem). Of course, some malpractice lawsuits have merit.
There are several ways to research your surgeon's malpractice history. You can visit the courthouse and perform a search for litigations, arbitrations and/or trials, in the civil index. Online searches may also pull up some useful information regarding pending or past malpractice suits.
Given the arbitrary and sometimes frivolous nature of lawsuits, look for patterns and any recent lawsuits before holding them against a surgeon. For example, if a surgeon has had a clean record for decades, but then had two malpractice suits filed against him in the last year, it may be a sign that trouble is brewing.
If your surgery is to be performed at a freestanding surgery clinic or in your surgeon's office, make sure the site is accredited. Accreditation means that the surgery center is well equipped, sanitary, prepared to handle an emergency should one arise, and provides easy access for and to emergency vehicles such as ambulances.
Accreditation associations in the United States and Canada include:
Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC)
3201 Old Glenview Road, Suite 300
Wilmette, Illinois 60091
Telephone: (847) 853-6060
Fax: (847) 853-9028
American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF)
5101 Washington Street, Suite #2F, Gurnee, IL 60031
Toll-free: (888) 545-5222
Fax: (847) 775-1985
Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)
One Renaissance Boulevard
Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois 60181
Telephone: (630) 792-5000
Fax: (630) 792-5005
Canadian Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (CAAASF)
2334 Heska Rd.
Pickering, Ontario Canada L1V 2P9
Telephone: (905) 831-5804
Fax: (905) 831-7248
Some of this research may seem like grunt work, but it pays off in the end. Choosing a skilled plastic surgeon for your breast augmentation will go a long way toward your ultimate satisfaction with the results, and will help minimize your risk of complications.