Tips to Help Choose a Qualified Cosmetic Surgeon

Twenty-five or thirty years ago, choosing a cosmetic surgeon was a much simpler task. At that time, cosmetic surgical procedures were primarily offered by plastic surgeons, and there were fewer non-invasive procedures being offered. Having fewer choices made doing your homework a whole lot easier.

Fast forward to 2018:

  • Nonsurgical treatment options have increased exponentially
  • The qualifications of the people administering these treatments are widespread
  • Surgical techniques and equipment have increased ten-fold
  • You can’t turn on your TV or computer without seeing an ad for a cosmetic procedure

As if all this didn’t complicate things enough, there’s one more element that should give you pause—there are no laws restricting what type of procedures a doctor can do based on their training. That means it’s legal for an emergency room doctor, who has never performed a surgical residency, to do a facelift or body contouring surgery. Scary, right?

So, how can you make sure you’re choosing the best professional to perform your cosmetic procedure? Finding the right person is vitally important. You want someone who is well trained, experienced and who can give you great results . . . safely.

Six Things to Look for in a Cosmetic Surgeon

When choosing a plastic surgeon, there’s more to consider than just a medical degree.


Think about what type of training each doctor has had and if they’re working within their scope of training. For example, a plastic surgeon doing a tummy tuck makes a whole lot more sense than an OB/GYN.

Would you rather have a surgeon who’s been trained how to take on the most challenging situations that can arise during surgery, or one who took a few weekend courses? Residency training in a surgical specialty is a long and rigorous process. An ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) plastic surgery residency takes a minimum of six to seven years to complete, and many surgeons do additional fellowship training beyond that.

Board Certification

It may surprise you to hear that not all certifications are legit. Basically, any person or organization can create a board and advertise it. So how do you know which ones to trust? The American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology are two trustworthy organizations. They are both parts of the highly-regarded American Board of Medical Specialties, which requires members to have completed a credentialed, multi-year residency program in that specialty.

Privileges in Certified Centers

Certified centers can only allow surgeons who meet specific training and credentialing use their facility. Beware of any doctor that works only in non-certified centers, hospitals or offices.

Academic Medical Centers

Working for an academic medical center is not a must— there are many great surgeons who are in private practice—but it is a bonus. Academic medical centers offer another level of screening. They rigorously assess individuals before appointing them to the faculty of a medical school where they train medical students and residents. If a doctor has a full-time appointment to a medical school faculty, you can be confident they meet stringent training and testing requirements.

Validated Patient Reviews

Be suspicious of open platform review sites where anyone—a patient or not—can go on and create a review. Sometimes a surgeon’s competitors make up bad reviews to hurt the practice. Other times, a practice may populate the site with their own great reviews to drive up their ratings. Look for validated online platforms, where only actual patients of that doctor can submit reviews. Obviously, you’re looking for mostly positive feedback, but even the best doctor can get an occasional negative review.

Personal Referrals

Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. A referral from a trusted doctor or friend is a great place to start. If the same name keeps popping up from multiple trusted sources, you’re definitely on the right track.

Three Things to Check … With Caution

Things like training and certifications can be verified through impartial sources, making them invaluable to your research. There are other ways to gather additional insight into surgeons, but they require a little more investigation . . . and caution on your part.

Their Website

A practice’s website can be an important source of information and a good place to do some basic research. But keep in mind they are designed to put the practice’s best foot forward. Just because they say they’re a world-renowned expert, doesn’t make it true. Go ahead and check out their site, but be sure to do your own investigation.

“Best” or “Top” Doctor Lists

Some of these lists are legitimate. But others are popularity contests or merely advertisements that include anybody who’s willing to send in money. The credible ones typically list only physicians that have been nominated by other physicians, like Castle Connolly Top Docs.

Before and After Pictures

Of course, you’ll want to see a sample “before and after pictures” from your potential plastic surgeon, but remember that things aren’t always as they seem. Surgeons will always show you their very best results. But what does the average result look like? Also, beware of shady professionals who use fraudulent photos that aren’t even their own work.

Bottom Line

Choosing the right surgeon is the single most important step in your cosmetic surgery journey. After you’ve checked out their qualifications, look for a physician you can easily talk to, who makes you feel confident and who seems to truly care about you and your needs.

Emory Aesthetic Center is staffed with qualified, expert cosmetic surgeons who are ready to give you the results you want. Schedule a complimentary consultation today.

About Felmont Eaves III, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Felmont F. Eaves III, M.D., F.A.C.S., leads the Emory Aesthetic Center as Medical Director. He is double board-certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Dr. Eaves’ leadership is apparent in his impressive accumulation of distinctions. He serves as Director of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, the board that certifies plastic surgeons nationally. Previously, he served as President of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery; he is currently a Trustee.

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