As a plastic surgeon, I would expect that most of my friends and family would call me to ask about wrinkles, skincare, or aesthetic surgeries. But this is not the case. Instead, most of the time, they call to ask about doctors from other specialties, confused about their background and certification.
The process of finding and selecting a physician can be complicated, especially with the overwhelming amount of information that is readily available in today’s digital world.
Qualities you should check on your Plastic Surgeon
So how does one select a plastic surgeon for their breast reconstruction? An even more challenging question is, how does one find a plastic surgeon who specializes in DIEP flaps and other perforator based autologous breast reconstruction operations?
Unfortunately, there is no accepted algorithm or answer to this question, but there are certain things that I feel would be critical components to consider:
1. At which institutions did your surgeon complete residency?
The American Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) is one of the organizations which accredits residency training programs. Their website does an excellent job of explaining their mission, what they do to accredited residency programs, and which programs and institutions they have certified.
2. Did your surgeon complete a fellowship?
The term “fellowship” can be perplexing. It typically describes training that is done after a physician completes residency. Fellowships offer further specialization in a specific sub-specialty.
For example, a plastic surgeon may complete a residency program and then elect to spend additional time doing extra training in a specific area. These areas may be reconstructive, cosmetic, hand, craniofacial, or microsurgery, to name a few.
3. Did your surgeon complete a fellowship focusing on reconstructive microsurgery?
Several fellowship programs focus on DIEP Flaps and other perforator-based autologous tissue breast reconstruction.
There is no accrediting organization, but more information can be obtained by visiting this page from the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgeons (ASRM).
4. Is your surgeon board-certified?
This can be a confusing topic for patients and even people in the field of medicine. After a physician completes medical school, residency, and possibly a fellowship, they can go on to become certified by a medical specialty board.
The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is one of the leading organizations which collaborate with its 24 Board Members to develop and implement educational and professional standards for certifying doctors in medical specialties. Their website had an easy physician look-up.
Generally speaking, if someone advertises “Board-Certified,” it is a good idea to find out EXACTLY by which board and if that board is recognized by the ABMS (or other reliable organizations overseeing medical boards).
The only ABMS-recognized board for plastic surgery is the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
State medical boards generally have a very stringent licensing process that scrutinizes an applicant’s background, training, and previous practice track record. State boards also usually provide a straightforward mechanism for looking up your physician to check their state licensing status.
The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) lists most of the medical boards for each state and has an easy physician look-up tool if you want to check the licensure status of your physician.
5. Is your surgeon a member of major medical specialty societies?
There are several medical specialty societies, making this topic one of the most confusing and difficult to explain.
In plastic surgery, one of the leading organizations is the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Members of this society will often have a blue circle on their web pages and other media. ASPS has several requirements for its members, one of the essential being certifications by an ABMS-recognized medical specialty board. To learn more about what the blue circle and ASPS membership means, visit this page.
Another strong organization is the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM). This society focuses on microsurgery, which is the primary surgical technique used for the DIEP, GAP, PAP, and TUG flap procedures. One of the main requirements for membership to this society is documented evidence of training in “reconstructive or micro-neurovascular surgery.” Additional requirements can be viewed here.
It is best to be sure of your Physician
I would not recommend answering these questions from the information provided on a physician’s website or personal social media pages. Instead, use the official sites in the links above to confirm their training and background. If you don’t see your physician listed, you might want to call the organizations above for confirmation about your physician’s education or membership.
These are only some of the resources, and I am sure others can be used to confirm your doctor’s background and training. And, let’s face it, I’m either approved by or a member of most of the things mentioned above, so I’m a bit biased. But I have dedicated much of my practice to breast reconstruction, microsurgery, and DIEP flap surgeries, so I am proud to highlight these organizations and resources.
If you find yourself in need of other kinds of cosmetic or reconstructive procedures, here are tips on how to find the right plastic surgeon for you.