Choosing a Surgeon

When considering plastic surgery like breast augmentationliposuction, or a facelift, naturally you search for the best plastic surgeon. If you’re like most Denver women and men, you talk to others who have had surgery, you research physicians on the Internet, and, when you’re ready, you begin setting up consultations with a chosen few.

Don’t stop there. It’s critical to give yourself the tools that will enable you to truly understand the background of a prospective surgeon. Why? Today, there’s no requirement that cosmetic surgery is performed by a doctor who’s actually trained in the discipline. In fact, cosmetic procedures of all kinds are offered by current and former dermatologists, gynecologists, and physicians trained in other fields.

If you’re not careful, you could find yourself being operated on by someone who has had no formal education in plastic surgery and no requirement to prove their knowledge and skill in exams and peer reviews. But, with just a small investment of time to learn a few basics, you’ll be in a great position to choose a surgeon who will deliver beautiful results and safeguard your health.

Certifications shared among the doctors
*AAAAHC is the most stringent available set of standards for surgical facilities. Dr. Matthew Freeman is eligible for certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (i.e. is “board-eligible”), and is not currently affiliated with ASPS or The Aesthetic Society.

Which Board Certification Really Matters?

As you research surgeons, many will say they’re “board certified.” Make sure the certification they’re talking about is the one our plastic surgeons hold, from the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). This will tell you your physician has a four-year college degree, has a degree from an accredited medical school, has successfully completed a minimum of five years surgical internship and residency, has completed an accredited residency specifically in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, has practiced plastic surgery for at least two years, and has passed extensive oral and written exams and peer reviews.

The ABPS has implemented these requirements working with its umbrella organization, The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), whose role is to oversee the specialty boards and assist them in developing and maintaining physician standards. The ABPS, one of an elite group of only 24 “member boards” of the ABMS, is the only ABMS organization that certifies physicians in plastic surgery from “head to toe.”

Some surgeons will claim board certification from organizations that have not been approved for membership in the ABMS. A few of these include:

  • The American Association for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
  • The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery
  • The American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • The American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery

What Other Acronyms Tell You

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons® (ASPS), the largest international organization focused on plastic surgery, is a prestigious group to which each of our surgeons belongs. The ASPS accepts only ABPS-certified physicians as members. Candidates must get local sponsorship from other ASPS surgeons and prove they meet strict ethical standards in patient care and practice promotion. Then they must attend meetings regularly and take continuing education courses to remain in good standing.

The Aesthetic Society (formerly ASAPS) is an organization of board-certified plastic surgeons specializing in cosmetic plastic surgery, and our plastic surgeons are all members. With over 2,500 members in the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world, The Aesthetic Society is the leading professional organization of plastic surgeons specializing in cosmetic surgery. This society is dedicated to advancing the science, art, and safe practice of aesthetic plastic surgery. The mission of The Aesthetic Society includes medical education, public education, and patient advocacy.

There are many other organizations to which Denver cosmetic surgeons may belong. They offer the chance to network with peers, some provide opportunities for further training, and some do require certification of some kind. On the other hand, some require only a membership fee.

The only way to make sure your surgeon has undergone the most rigorous certification process in the field is to make sure they are certified by the ABPS.

Cosmetic Surgeon or Plastic Surgeon

The word “plastic” in plastic surgery doesn’t refer to the versatile material you may be thinking of. It derives from a Greek word, plastikos, meaning “to mold.” The discipline has been around even longer than ancient Greek civilization as a way to rebuild and improve the form and function of the body.

The field advanced through the ages and took significant leaps forward during the two world wars of the 20th century. Professional and academic societies were established and the field of study began to be formalized. The American Board of Plastic Surgery was formed in 1937, creating the standard for plastic surgeons that continues today.

The labels “cosmetic surgeon” and “plastic surgeon” are not interchangeable. A cosmetic surgeon is a doctor, any doctor, who performs procedures to enhance a patient’s looks. A plastic surgeon (those who have completed a residency) is educated and trained specifically in plastic surgery. A plastic surgeon may do mostly or exclusively cosmetic surgery, and may even call himself or herself a cosmetic surgeon. But those who perform cosmetic surgery without the rigorous regimen required by the ABPS should not call themselves plastic surgeons.

How do you know what qualifications your prospective surgeon has? How can you find out if they’re certified by the ABPS? Ask. Don’t feel hesitant. Your looks and your health depend on it.

Other Guidelines

Don’t limit your search to where you live. The best plastic surgeon for you may not be just down the street or even in the next town over. Patients from Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and throughout Colorado and the U.S. travel to our practice because it’s worth it to get the best care possible.

Review many impressive before-and-after photos. There are two important reasons to spend time reviewing before-and-after pictures when considering plastic surgery. The first is to determine what procedure, if any, actually serves to improve your undesired appearance. The second is to distinguish which surgeon performs the best work.

There are many procedures discussed on the web and touted by the cosmetic surgery community and media as aesthetic dream-makers. Often, however, they are not. Be skeptical and use before-and-after pictures to determine which procedures will actually address your concerns. If an operation works well, there will be thousands of pictures demonstrating its success. If it’s hard to find good before-and-after pictures of a procedure used for the problem you’re trying to address, then it probably doesn’t exist. Remember to be honest with yourself about your appearance when evaluating web pictures. The mirror lies. We recommend that you take pictures of yourself and set them in front of your computer while you do your research. Make sure that the “before’s” look like you and then determine what procedures work. Just because the media or some website states that fat injection to the buttocks will lift the butt, that doesn’t make it so.

Second, once you’ve identified the best operation for you, it’s easy to determine which surgeons achieve the most natural and attractive results. All people are hard-wired to appreciate natural attractiveness. Fortunately, it’s easy for you to identify who can meet your highest expectations simply by reviewing before-and-after photo galleries.

Find a surgeon who specializes in cosmetic plastic surgery and performs hundreds of your procedure of interest per year. Many plastic surgeons perform cosmetics surgery procedures, but few specialize in the cosmetic, rather than reconstructive side of plastic surgery and dedicate their entire practice to aesthetic procedures. Because our surgeons practice cosmetic plastic surgery exclusively, they perform hundreds of most procedures per year and can assure each patient that she will get the most beautiful aesthetic transformation possible.

Seek a surgeon who upholds the proper credentials including certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and The Aesthetic Society.

Make sure the surgeon uses only an accredited, state-of-the-art surgical facility. Our surgeons perform surgery in our AAAHC-certified Apex Surgical Facility in Golden, Colorado. Apex is owned and operated by our surgeons, and is used exclusively for aesthetic surgery patients. Anesthesia is used to ensure that you feel no discomfort and that your breathing is maintained and controlled for the duration of your procedure. We use only board-certified anesthesiologists, including Brian Hopkins, M.D., the medical director of Apex Surgical Facility.

Decide, if upon meeting the surgeon, you make a connection. Perhaps the most important criteria for choosing a plastic surgeon is your intuitive sense of comfort with the physician as a person. Cosmetic surgery is an emotional and personal experience. After all of your research into credentials and before/after pictures, ultimately, you must feel good about trusting the plastic surgeon to care for you and your aesthetic results.