Choosing a Plastic Surgeon

Choosing to have an aesthetic operation is a very personal act.  An integral part of this process is selecting a plastic surgeon.  Most patients have little knowledge of what to consider when making this decision. Hence, this article is a brief overview regarding the training of plastic surgeons and it intends to point patients in the right direction.

All physicians have attended about four years of medical school.  After medical school, plastic surgeons approach their specialty by completing a primary residency in general surgery, otolaryngology, neurologic surgery, urology or orthopedic surgery.  Typically, this takes five to seven years.  After this training, plastic surgeons then attend a second residency in plastic and reconstructive surgery encompassing an additional two or three years.  Further sub-specialization can then be sought in one year long fellowships such as hand, craniofacial, microsurgery, or burn surgery.  So the “basic training” of a plastic surgeon occurs over eleven to thirteen years.

A plastic surgeon’s credentials are developed by completing the above residencies and passing a series of certification examinations.  These exams typically have both written and oral components.  In many cases, plastic surgeons have multiple board certifications.  One may be board certified in general surgery, and plastic surgery, while holding certificates of added qualifications in subspecialties such as hand surgery, etc.

How does one determine if the physician you’ve chosen is board certified?  Ask.  Most surgeons are very proud of the certifications they have accumulated.  Don’t be misled by bogus “certifications”.  The American Board of Medical Specialties established in 1933 governs over 24 specialty boards.  But, there are well over 100 self-designated “boards” which are not sanctioned nor approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties.  For plastic surgeons, the approved board is the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and none other.  If you have questions or have been told otherwise, contact the American Board of Medical Specialties at 1-800-776-CERT (also link to

Plan carefully and check references.   Ask your surgeon if he has experience in the operation you seek.  Ask to see if they have before and after pictures.  Determine if your surgeon is an active member of any professional societies.  An example would be membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (link to

Membership in The American Society of Plastic Surgeons indicates a significant commitment to the advancement of the subspecialty.  It is safe to assume that these member plastic surgeons are well informed with regard to advances in their field.  Additionally, these physicians routinely undergo stringent review of their qualifications and continuing education as an intrinsic component of maintaining their profession.

In summary, you choice of a surgeon is as personal as your choice of procedure.  Find a surgeon with whom you are comfortable and can communicate.  Review their qualifications and certifications independently.  Make more than one visit for consultation if you find it necessary.  When you are satisfied that all is in order— Trust your surgeon and be secure in the fact that you have make an informed choice.

David Steckler, Jr.  M.D.

If you would like more information concerning any aesthetic plastic surgery procedure please feel free to contact us office at 601-969-9050 or visit the website at