If you are just starting to consider plastic surgery, you are probably wondering where to start. The single most important decision you will make regarding breast, body or facial enhancement is choosing the right cosmetic surgeon.

Dr. Benjamin Gelfant is a leader in providing the information you need to make an informed decision. When the first edition of Dr. Gelfant’s book A Patient’s Guide To Cosmetic Plastic Surgery was published, it was difficult for patients to find good information about cosmetic surgery. A good book seemed necessary. The Internet was something only a few people accessed, and those who used it were mostly male, young and technical.

All that has changed. There are many books available at just about any good bookstore. Advertising by plastic surgeons, as well as others doing cosmetic plastic surgery who are not plastic surgeons, surrounds us, and a brief search of the web will bring up so many sites, you may now have the same problem where do I start for a different reason.

Many people first sit down at their computers and search by procedures in the privacy of their home. You can learn a great deal this way, but there is so much information it may be quite confusing. Believe it or not, there are many people in the Vancouver area, medical doctors and others, acting as cosmetic surgeons, without any significant training or experience. What follows should help you make the right choice, whether you live in Vancouver or not.

What Is A Board Certified Plastic Surgeon?

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is a specialty of medicine defined by the governing body of specialists is Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Other specialties you have heard of include cardiology (hearts), orthopedic surgery (bone and joint), neurosurgery (brain and spinal surgery) etc.

In the USA, there is a similar organization called the American Board of Medical Specialties. There are twenty-four member boards one of which is The American Board of Plastic Surgery. There is no Board of Cosmetic Surgery, Board of Facial Plastic Surgery etc. Certification matters.

Certification in plastic surgery means first becoming a doctor (MD) by completing three or more pre-medical school years of university, four years of medical school and certification examinations.

Specializing after the MD degree means a further five to seven years of residency training, first in all aspects of surgery and then in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery, including hand surgery, burns, children with cleft lip and palate deformities, and all other aspects of Plastic Surgery including but not only Cosmetic Surgery. He or she is then “recommended” (by his or her teachers and mentors) for the privilege of writing a written examination in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, given by the Royal College.  (The same process exists for each of the specialties, with varying lengths of residency training). If this exam is passed, there is still a grueling oral and hands-on examination. Finally, and only if this is passed, the doctor is certified in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. There is no substitute.

In this world of knock-off Louis Vuitton purses, corner kiosk imitation Rolex watches, and imitation iPads, it isn’t surprising patients also need to beware of the credentials of their doctors.

9 Key Qualifications For Choosing A Cosmetic Surgeon

In the end, whether or not a surgeon is right for you for an aesthetic surgical procedure depends on many factors, including their qualifications and training, their compassion as a doctor, and their surgical abilities. The following questions may help you guide you.

Here are some key qualifications to look for and questions to ask when choosing a Vancouver-based cosmetic plastic surgeon.

1. Does the cosmetic plastic surgeon have board certification?

Because aesthetic surgery is not rationed like other aspects of health care, many persons who are not plastic surgeons, such as non-surgeon medical doctors and even non-M.D.’s such as dentists are now doing cosmetic surgery. Thus, the patient is faced with a difficult and confusing choice.

2. Does the cosmetic surgeon have significant experience?

Most plastic surgeons spend most of their working time in the reconstructive aspects of plastic surgery, mainly in hospitals. They treat such conditions as hand injuries, breast reduction and reconstruction after cancer, facial bone fractures, burns, etc. Cosmetic surgery is, for these surgeons, one facet of a larger general discipline of plastic surgery. Most believe experience in one enhances capability in the other. Further specialization improves one’s expertise.

Benjamin Gelfant has over 30 years of experience as a plastic surgeon. Although at one time Dr. Gelfant had an extensive practice in facial trauma, sun damage and skin cancer, his Vancouver practice is now almost exclusively devoted to cosmetic surgery, with special emphasis on endoscopic (small incision) breast and forehead procedures, facelift, and body contour surgery.

3. Is the cosmetic surgeon a member of the appropriate professional societies?

Membership in scientific societies is a measure of the cosmetic surgeon’s involvement in thoughtful, progressive advancement of his or her understanding and skills in the profession. Most of the reputable organizations have ethics and membership committees that scrutinize applicants for membership before granting this privilege. Membership also costs money and requires regular attendance at meetings in order to maintain membership, but the benefits are clear to an experienced cosmetic surgeon.

Beware of those who claim to be members of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery or similar such self-designated boards not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties or the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada. When you ask if the surgeon is certified, also ask in what field?

(Many other specialists and non-specialists are flooding into the field, including dermatologists, eye surgeons (ophthalmologists) gynecologists, general practitioners, and even dentists.)

Don’t be afraid to ask to see the appropriate certificates. These should be displayed for easy viewing.

4. Can you verify a cosmetic surgeon’s credentials by phone?

Here are the key credentialing institutions for cosmetic plastic surgeons:

Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: 1-95-831-7750
American Society of Plastic Surgeons: 1-800-635-0635
American Society for Aesthetic Surgery: 1-888-272-7711

They will also send information brochures if desired.

5. Can you verify a cosmetic surgeon’s credentials online?

Here are the websites for key credential institutions for cosmetic plastic surgeons:

Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: www.csaps.ca
American Society of Plastic Surgeons: www.plasticsurgery.org
American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: www.surgery.org

6. Are you comfortable with the personal rapport between you and your surgeon?

Your relationship with your surgeon determines a great deal about how comfortable you will feel about your decision before, during and after your procedure. Make sure you are able to express your needs and desires. You should always feel your concerns are being addressed by the physician and his/her staff. My staff and I will do everything we can to address your needs

7. Do you share the same sense of aesthetics as your surgeon?

Plastic surgery is not about perfection, but improvement. In some cases, the result is a profound improvement, but it is vitally important that you and your surgeon have a meeting of the minds regarding what you both define as a good, desirable result, based on realistic expectations. Remember, a surgical procedure may be technically correct, and yet not achieve aesthetically pleasing results.

8. What is the quality of the surgical environment?

Are procedures performed in a certified surgical facility? Is a certified anesthetist or anesthesiologist regularly present? Is the surgeon credentialled for the appropriate procedure in a hospital?

9. What is the quality of post-surgical care?

Determine how often you will see your surgeon following your procedure. The more often you are seen by your physician and his/her staff, the greater degree of security you will have in your recovery. Remember that your relationship with your surgeon does not end after you leave the surgical facility or after the stitches are removed. If you have questions and concerns after your surgery, be sure to discuss them with your surgeon.

Benjamin Gelfant MD is a member of the following professional societies:

Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Qualifications And Professional Societies

If you have any questions you are welcome to call us at (604) 874-2078 or you can book a consultation to speak directly with Dr. Gelfant.

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