How to Choose a Plastic Surgeon

Knowing the right questions to ask when choosing a plastic surgeon

Dr. Orna Fisher Palo Alto CA

If you are reading this than you already know choosing a plastic surgeon is not a frivolous task, but at the same time it doesn’t have to be an intimidating process. Plastic surgeon Dr. Orna Fisher knows this all too well. “Friends and experts in other fields often ask me how to find a great plastic surgeon. One of the problems is that finding the right surgeon can feel overwhelming,” Dr. Fisher explains. “Finding the best plastic surgeon to suit your needs seems challenging. This is partly because you don’t know where to begin and, also, because the issue you want to address is so very personal. The good news is that it is not hard if you know what questions to ask.”
 When considering plastic surgery, Dr. Fisher encourages you to ask yourself the following questions before selecting a potential plastic surgeon to do a procedure on you.

What are the surgeon’s credentials?

You want to make sure that you are choosing a professional who has the appropriate training and education to determine what you need. First and foremost, a surgeon should be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This is the one and only organization that guarantees our training and expertise as plastic surgeons. Make sure that it is the American Board of Plastic Surgery, not the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, which is not one of the 24 American Board of Medical Specialties Boards.

It is important to note that there is no board directly protecting patients. That’s right — there is no board that protects patients. The role of the Boards (the real Boards) is to set rules and regulations that we must follow to maintain our good standing as professionals within our respective specialties after we become board-certified. It is only the 24 American Boards of Medical Specialties that may certify physicians so that we become board-certified in a specific specialty.

While imitation cosmetic board organizations may have their share of caring physicians, they were created by non-plastic surgeons (often not even surgeons!) who want to do cosmetic procedures but lack the rigorous training and credentials required to perform plastic surgery. These organizations exist to muddy the waters and confuse consumers regarding who is and who is not qualified to do cosmetic procedures. 
The bottom line is that it is up to the consumer to understand what credentials the provider has and to ensure that they are the correct ones.

Other than board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) also provides reassurance for consumers trying to vet credentials. Just remember that the higher the quality of the physician, the more regulations exist on them to maintain the highest professional standards. That’s the best and only protection you’ve got as a consumer.
To check the qualifications of a plastic surgeon, visit the ASPS website or

Are they up on the latest techniques and procedures?

Of course experience matters, but just having many years of experience does not guarantee that best practices for outcomes and safety are being followed. You want to make sure to choose a professional who makes continuing education a priority so be sure to inquire about it.

Is this someone you will feel comfortable taking care of you?

Remember, that while you are interviewing a doctor about his or her credentials and getting a feel for the practice, there are also other things to consider. After all, this person is assessing you for something you are self-conscious about and will be operating on you. It is hard not to feel vulnerable, and you will feel much better in your decision when you find a professional that is approachable, understanding, and has integrity. You should be aware about their level of concern for your well-being and any other quality that’s important to you personally.

Is this a partnership or a one-way street?

Keep in mind that while you are researching the right plastic surgeon to perform your procedure, plastic surgeons do elective surgery so they may also be carefully selecting their patients. For example, as the owner of a boutique plastic surgery practice where I focus on cosmetic surgery, my care of each patient is highly personalized. From the very first time that I assess you, we are both deciding if we are a good fit for each other. It’s a partnership and we both must be equally committed to the process for true success. Just as all individuals have differences, plastic surgeons are not interchangeable and you will certainly find the right one for you.

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