How you look is important. But who is actually helping you look that way should also be considered. Given that, you need to know exactly what to ask your Plastic Surgeon to determine not only if he/she is qualified to perform your procedure but, as importantly, whether you truly feel comfortable with them. So what questions should you really ask?
In my experience, many patients are nervous about asking us about our specific skills and attributes. But keep in mind that answers to these questions may shed tremendous light on our ability to perform your procedure safely and effectively and to make the healing period as smooth as possible.
My top 5 questions include the following:
- Are you Board Certified? If so, in what specialty?
- How many years have you been practicing?
- What is your favorite procedure?
- How are you different than your competition?
- If I was a family member, what questions would you suggest that I ask?
To dive more deeply into these questions, let’s examine why they are important:
1. Many non-core physicians have and will enter aesthetic medicine and often refer to themselves as Board Certified Cosmetic Surgeons. To achieve Board Certification in Plastic Surgery, I completed a 5 year residency in General Surgery, a 2 year Fellowship in Plastic Surgery, passed my written board exams and ultimately passed my oral board exams. By doing so, I can now say that I am Board Certified in Plastic Surgery. The same is not true of those Board Certified in “Cosmetic Surgery”. First, Cosmetic Surgery is not even an officially recognized specialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and, as such, is not considered to be a true Board Certification. More importantly, it doesn’t indicate to you the patient what that physician’s true background training is actually in. This “Board Certified Cosmetic Surgeon” could actually be an Emergency Room Physician, Family Practice physician, or even Psychiatrist who decided that they suddenly want to practice Plastic Surgery. They take a few quick weekend courses and suddenly…they are a Cosmetic Surgeon. Make sure to ask about this because chances are many of them will not immediately offer this information when you first meet.
2. First let me say that there are many newer Plastic Surgeons who do not have a tremendous amount of experience but that are still excellent surgeons. But while they may be excellent surgeons, the attribute they lack is experience. In the first few years of my practice, I easily learned more practical knowledge than I ever gained from formal training. This is important. As a surgeon, I know the anatomy and I know how a particular procedure should be performed. But experience gives me an edge when the anatomy is not so clearcut or when the procedure doesn’t go as planned. And it provides me with subtle nuances that in many cases will produce a result that is superior to one practiced by someone less seasoned.
3. When I go to a restaurant, I often request that the chef fix his favorite meal for me because I know that his favorite meal is probably what he actually prepares the best and what he probably likes to eat. The same is true for me. I limited my surgical procedures to my 5 favorite. These are the procedures that I perform the best and the ones that I most enjoy doing.
4. How a physician differentiates themselves from the competition tells you a lot about their skills not only as a business person but, more importantly, what they identify as important to their clients. I differentiate myself from my competition with value-added services. I continually raise the bar when it comes to customer service and I only work with patients with whom I feel comfortable. If I feel uncomfortable during an initial consultation, I tell the patient just that and will not take them on as a patient. That is the only fair thing to do for both of us. If I do feel comfortable, myself and my staff will go the extra mile for that person. What is it that your Plastic Surgeon does differently for you?
5. This is a very important question but one that I am rarely asked. I have a family and I am obviously a Plastic Surgeon. When a family member of mine sees another physician (in any field), I recommend that they ask these basic five questions. I also suggest that they Google the physician on the internet and form an impression. Keep in mind, however, that some internet rating sites do not fairly depict a physician’s abilities or bedside manner and that a single patient (or even the physician’s competition) will often try and sabotage rankings by posting multiple low rankings of this doctor. Analyze their rankings and read the comments. If no comments are provided, discount the rankings. If the person was so upset with the service provided and feel they need to post their discontent, they should also say why they were upset so that the doctor can actually modify how he/she practices to improve the experience for future patients.
I hope these suggestions help you decide an appropriate fit for you. The decision to move forward with Plastic Surgery is an important one…but who you choose to do your Plastic Surgery is even more critical.