The Stark Difference Between Plastic Surgeons & Cosmetic Surgeons

Wirth Plastic Surgery

Have you ever wondered about the difference between cosmetic and plastic surgery? Is there a difference? It’s an important question to ask yourself when you are considering cosmetic plastic surgery in California, maybe more so than some other states. It can be the determining factor between whether or not you receive the results you want from your procedure.

How Do Cosmetic Surgery and Plastic Surgery Differ?

Many people use the terms “cosmetic surgery” and “plastic surgery” interchangeably. However, the procedures and the surgeons who practice them are very different. Cosmetic surgery can be performed by any doctor, even if they have not been accredited by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). On the other hand, plastic surgeons have undergone years of specialized training to ensure that they are well-qualified to operate, diagnose problems, maintain high ethical standards and continuing education. It seems to be a misconception that “plastic surgery” generally entails reconstruction, while “cosmetic surgery” focuses on elective procedures. A plastic surgeon is also a cosmetic (or aesthetic) surgeon because he/she has received specialized training on the cosmetic procedures, with his or her training verified through the Board Certification process of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. In contrast, a “cosmetic surgeon” may not be a plastic surgeon as plastic surgery requires extensive schooling and certifications by the ABMS. It may be difficult to fully understand in one blog, but it is a very important distinction for you to know.

The Importance of Being Board Certified

The main difference between “board certified cosmetic” and Board Certified plastic surgeon in California is Board Certification under the governing body of the American Board of Medical Specialties. There are some doctors who claim to be “board certified” or “board certified cosmetic surgeons”, but under the governing body of the ABMS there is no American board of cosmetic surgery. However, there is a formal American Board of Plastic Surgery that is recognized and holds its members to the highest of standards in the field of cosmetic and reconstructive Plastic Surgery.

If a doctor is certified by the American Board of Medical Specialities, as Dr. Wirth is, he or she will have undergone expansive training for the specialties they offer. To become board certified, a surgeon must:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree
  • Receive an MD or DO degree from a recognized medical school
  • Complete a 3-5 year residency program, and possible more years of fellowship training

Following this, a surgeon must pass a rigorous assessment administered by the Medical Board that they will practice under. For example, Dr. Wirth took and passed the examination given by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

To ensure that your surgeon is well- educated and stays up-to-date on the most current procedures and technologies, he or she must keep their certification updated. This requires that they are involved in the American Board of Plastic Surgery Maintenance of Certification program. This maintenance program requires a career-long commitment as members must continually:

  • Study medical journals
  • Attend conferences and trainings
  • Have their performance inspected and evaluated by doctors and patients
  • Maintain good standing with the state they practice in by having current certifications
  • And pass recertifying examinations, among other requirements

“Cosmetic surgeons” are not required to follow these guidelines as they are not members of the esteemed ABMS. Obviously, you want a surgeon who is experienced, honest and certified to deliver your best results. There is a great deal more to discuss, but it is beyond the scope of this single presentations and will most likely be addressed in future articles. You can see more of Dr. Wirth’s thoughts on this topic on his website page “Why Board Certification Matters”. (please link this to my page – it is associated with the Meet Dr. Wirth tab – Thank you)

How Do I Know If My Surgeon is Board Certified?

To determine if a surgeon is currently accredited by the ABMS, you should do your research. You can often find out on their website, and you can search for certified surgeons on theAmerican Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and American Board of Medical Specialties websites. By contacting Dr. Wirth, you can rest assured that you are in the hands of a practiced, board certified surgeon who has had years of experience, and who will deliver the results you need.


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