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Making a decision to have plastic surgery, whether to reduce the signs of ageing, enhance your appearance, freshen your look, or address a medical problem, is a serious matter that can be life-changing. There are some key factors to consider and discuss with loved ones. Below, some of these variables are explained, along with approaches to investigating what may be the best route for you. During a visit with Dr Dufresne, he will help you think about these matters and make the best decisions for you.

Important Considerations When Making Decisions About Plastic Surgery

Plastic Surgeon Education &Training

Plastic surgery is among the most demanding and difficult medical specialities to enter, and only the most talented are successful. In the United States of America, students first attend undergraduate school for 4 years and then medical school for 4 years. Medical school graduates earn either a Medical Doctorate (MD) or Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. Outside of the United States of America, medical school may last 6 years, if combined with basic courses. In the US, those basic courses are taken during undergraduate school before entering medical school. Medical schools outside of the US also may award different degrees, but all students receive the same type of education worldwide. 

After graduating from medical school, those who attended a DO medical school or who are in the US Navy complete a 1-year internship. (After their internship, US Navy doctors must serve 3 years as a General Medical Officer before becoming eligible to complete specialized training; whereas, civilian DOs may go immediately into a specialty training program after their 1-year internship.) The final step is to complete specialty training, which includes residencies and fellowships.

The first step in specialty training to become a plastic surgeon is to complete a general surgery residency. This is followed by the completion of a plastic surgery residency. Some complete a combined general surgery and plastic surgery residency. Residency is where medical school graduates receive mentored instruction and experience to learn to provide care within their speciality. Fellowship training is additional training in a very specialized area after completion of residency. Depending on what type of plastic surgery interests you, you may want to consider a surgeon who has not only completed all requirements but also completed one or more fellowships.

Board certification & Professional Development

Board certification is a process to ensure that doctors practicing in a given specialty have achieved a basic set of standards, “through a comprehensive process involving educational requirements, professional peer evaluation, examination, and professional development. (American Board of Medical Specialties).” Candidates for board certification must have completed medical school and an accredited residency program for their chosen specialty. Candidates complete an oral peer review discussing their understanding of their clinical specialty and patient care and pass a comprehensive written examination. Only the American Board of Plastic Surgery certifies plastic surgeons, though other official-sounding “boards” claim to certify cosmetic surgeons.

The American Osteopathic Board of Surgery administers primary and secondary certifications in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery for DOs. The board certification requirements, process, and procedures are similar to that of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. DOs who meet the requirements may also be certified through the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

All doctors must complete professional development to ensure they remain current. Most professional development requirements are set by state medical boards and medical societies and organizations. Non-compliance can result in the loss of a license or expulsion from the medical society. It is worthwhile to ask the surgeon if they complete most of their professional development in their area of practice or in different areas.

Qualities of a surgeon

After considering a surgeon’s education, training, and board certification status, there are still more aspects to consider. Has the doctor published and presented a large body of innovative research in plastic surgery? Research in which the surgeon played a key role indicates creativity and commitment to excellence and innovation, valuable qualities in any doctor.

Next, does the surgeon have a strong record of safe, compassionate, and innovative care? While this is harder to assess, it can best be investigated by finding what other doctors–not patients–say about the surgeon. Other doctors are often more realistic and more objective because they have training and experience that gives them insight.

Finally, at your initial consultation, does the surgeon communicate, listen, and investigate your concerns well? If they take your concerns seriously, listen to you, and investigate your problems carefully, you may well have found the right surgeon for you.

Personal expectations

Even more than the background or skill of the surgeon, having realistic expectations of what can be achieved by plastic surgery is critical for a successful and happy outcome. While plastic surgery has advanced dramatically, there are still limits to what can be done depending on a variety of factors. The most obvious is that no surgeon can help an 80-year-old look 20 again, but they might be able to help them look a few years younger or “freshen” their appearance. Similarly, some disfiguring conditions tend to respond poorly to surgical treatment and require surgery every few years as the deformities reform. If a patient understands the limits, the opportunity for a happy outcome is very good.

Logistical considerations

After considering what the realistic possibilities for plastic surgery are likely to be and how those fit with your goals, the other important consideration for you are any logistical matters. Openly talking with family and friends about a possible need for help after treatment with household duties or childcare and discussing costs, payment options with office staff early-on will reduce a lot of stress later. After treatment, you have one job: rest and heal. If you are stressed by finances and personal responsibilities, that could complicate your recovery. 

Most people who put off discussing logistical concerns do so because they fear they have limited or no options. In most cases, this is not true. So, investigate, and you may be happily surprised at how many options you have to make getting plastic surgery more within reach. You can begin exploring your payment options on our Patient Resources page.

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Break away from the herd. Think deeply, look down and survey your life and environment, and decide what you want, for yourself. When you are ready, Dr Dufresne can help you make the best decisions to realize your goals.
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