By Dr. James Apesos

Several years ago a TV show titled To Tell the Truth was broadcast on weekly basis. The show presented the audience and panelists with three individuals, one of whom was telling the truth and two of whom were lying about their professions.

Today, consumers of medical care are faced with the same dilemma as the panelists on To Tell the Truth.   Patients seeking plastic surgery are trying to discern which doctors are lying about their credentials.

            The public has no way of knowing which doctors are “telling the truth” and which are not.  In all medical specialties, particularly those of plastic surgery, heart surgery, eye surgery or cardiology, a doctor’s credentials are examined and scrutinized by physician committees prior to granting them permission to operate in the hospital setting.

However, in the realm of “cosmetic plastic surgery,” there is a loop-hole with no protection for the consumer.   Any one doctor who would like may advertise as if they are a cosmetic plastic surgeon and practice in a non-hospital location like a private office or surgicenter.  Since hospitals cannot regulate what the doctor does in many outpatient settings, the self-appointed plastic surgeon may do any surgery, procedure, or injections requested by a patient.   Even after making inquiries many patients cannot discern if the practitioner is actually board certified as a real plastic surgery.

Training to become a real plastic surgeon is difficult requiring the completion of four years in medical school, three to five years in surgery training, and then a plastic surgery residency.   All of the training must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, National Residency Review Committee, and the American Medical Association.

Close scrutiny of a doctor’s education as a specialist protects patients are treated by all doctors.  During site visits, evaluators scrutinize educational programs to be sure a new doctor is qualified for licensure.  This includes the academic and research environment and the number of cases performed and quality of direct faculty supervision.

Once a plastic surgeon has finished the residency program, then he or she is eligible to take the 2-part board examination in plastic surgery, which consists of a written and oral test prior to being board certified. .

It is important for patients to realize the qualifications of their doctor when seeking the care of a cosmetic plastic surgeon.  Whether this is for cosmetic facial surgery or cancer surgery, they should know with whom they are dealing.  Qualified plastic surgeons are trained in the broad range of plastic surgery techniques, which includes trauma surgery, facial fractures, burn surgery, hand surgery, nerve surgery and blood vessel surgery, congenital cleft lip and cleft palate surgery, reconstructive surgery and in the field of cosmetic surgery.  Training also includes aesthetic surgery of the face, nose, eyes, jowls, neck, cheeks, abdomen, legs, and breasts.

When a physician hangs out his shingle as a real plastic surgeon, it is important to be truthfully qualified in all the necessary areas.


Dr. James Apesos, a clinical professor of plastic surgery at Wright State University School of Medicine, also has a cosmetic surgery practice in Dayton, Ohio