What is the difference between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon?
While the distinction may not be obvious, it is important for patients to be aware of it so that they don’t enter into a surgical procedure under the illusion they are in safe hands.
All surgical procedures involve a level of risk. After a series of medical issues surrounding procedures performed by cosmetic surgeons in Australia, it is clear that there are serious consequences for patients who opt to have surgery with a less-qualified professional.
It is understood that the Medical Board of Australia is considering placing restrictions on the use of the title “cosmetic surgeon”. The title can be misleading to patients who may not understand that there are very important differences between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon.
So what is the difference between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon?
The main difference between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon is the level of education and training they have received. Cosmetic surgeons hold a basic medical degree (MBBS, or Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) awarded to medical practitioners upon completion of their university course.
Specialist Plastic Surgeons, however, also hold the FRACS (Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons) credential. This signifies that the surgeon has completed an additional 8 years of training (that is, a minimum of 12 years of medical and surgical education) and is accredited to perform invasive reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.
Industry regulations on the title “cosmetic surgeon”
Unfortunately, due to industry regulations it can be difficult for patients to understand the difference between the two titles. Professor Mark Ashton (President of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons) mentioned on A Current Affair that “in Australia, anyone who has done basic medical training at a university and comes out calling themselves a doctor can also call themselves a surgeon”. This means that in Australia it is currently legal for GPs to perform surgery as a “cosmetic surgeon” without having received specialist training in performing invasive surgical procedures.
Often, plastic surgeons are called upon to fix the results of botched surgeries performed by cosmetic surgeons. A lack of public awareness of the differences between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon means that often the actions of cosmetic surgeons can reflect negatively on the plastic surgery industry as a whole.
Questions to ask before choosing a surgeon in Australia
For prospective plastic surgery patients, it is your responsibility to conduct research on your surgeon and ensure that they are reputable, qualified and a specialist in the area of surgery you are considering. The following questions may guide your research:
- What is their title?
- What are their credentials / qualifications?
- How many years of training have they undergone?
- Where did they receive their training?
- What procedures do they specialise in?
- What is their level of experience in performing these procedures?
About Mr Frank Lin
Eastern Plastic Surgery’s Mr Frank Lin has completed specialised surgical training and gained recognition as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. He has undertaken further specialty and subspecialty training both locally and internationally, and is a fully qualified member of:
- Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
- Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons
- International Confederation of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Mr Lin is involved in the training of medical students of Monash University’s medical school, and keeps up-to-date with the latest advances in reconstructive and aesthetic surgery through attending academic conferences and seminars.
Further resources for patients considering surgery