For Fracs Sake, Before Undergoing Plastic Surgery, Make Sure Your Surgeon is Qualified

Plastic surgery takes origin from the Greek word plastikos – meaning to shape or mould. Plastic surgeons dedicate themselves to the restoration of shape and form. Such loss of form may be a result of birth defects, removal of cancers or accidents. They train for years to do this. By necessity plastic surgeons have a finely honed appreciation of shape and form, combining science with artistry on a daily basis. This places them in a unique position to perform cosmetic or aesthetic procedures that, in essence, are an enhancement of features that already exist.

A perfect example is breast reconstruction. The ability to create a beautiful breast from literally nothing allows a plastic surgeon to use those same skills to improve an existing breast. Similarly, being trained to rebuild a face transfers naturally to rhinoplasty. The same knowledge, skills and appreciation of form are required if you are building a feature or enhancing it. It is therefore of critical importance when considering any type of surgery to ensure your plastic surgeon is appropriately qualified. An analogy I like to use is air travel. We all expect the person flying the plane is a trained pilot. After all, they are responsible for getting the passengers and the plane to the destination safely. How would it feel if we discovered the person at the pointy end was actually a bus driver having a bit of a go? The same applies for cosmetic surgery. You need to make sure that your plastic surgeon is qualified – not a ‘cowboy’.

Becoming a plastic surgeon in Australia requires years of additional training and examinations – no shortcuts. The only way you can be sure your plastic surgeon has completed this rigorous process is by looking for the letters FRACS. This denotes fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons – the only recognised body for training plastic surgeons. Not everyone can be accepted into surgical training and not everyone makes it through. It is a tough and competitive road. Australian plastic surgeons are highly regarded around the world because the training is so intensive. If they make it through an Australian program you know they have met a high standard.

Unfortunately, some doctors need a shortcut. They may have not met the entry criteria to gain a place on an Australian surgical training program. Maybe they couldn’t make it through. Instead, they seek training outside the accepted pathways. Some spend time ‘observing’ overseas. Maybe they watch a few DVDs when they get back on the use of the term ‘surgeon’. The only protection from the rogue elements out there is to look for those letters FRACS.

Queensland is the first state to step up and attempt to regulate the cosmetic surgery industry by prohibiting the use of the term plastic surgeon by those not properly trained. To wriggle around that problem ‘cowboys’ will usually use the term Dr, but then mention cosmetic surgery as their area of ‘specialty’. There will be reference to qualifications and membership of a college with lots of letters but if those letters don’t include FRACS then beware.

How would it feel if we discovered the person at the pointy end was actually a bus driver having a bit of a go? The same applies for plastic surgery. You need to make sure that your plastic surgeon is qualified – not a ‘cowboy’.

This is another good reason that the decision to have plastic surgery overseas is a dangerous one. Apart from being a long way from home, other countries don’t have the same standards as Australia. There is no way you can be sure of the qualifications or level of experience of these people. Generally in life there are no free lunches. Overseas plastic surgery is cheap for a reason – and it’s not from their trip – what I like to call a DVD fellowship. Others receive training from ‘colleges’ that claim to train plastic surgeons. Do not be fooled. If the doctor does not have the letters FRACS next to their name then they are not Australian-trained plastic surgeons – it’s that simple.

Appallingly, in every other state apart from Queensland, a doctor can legally call themselves a plastic surgeon despite having no formal plastic surgical training or qualifications at all. How can this be, you ask?. If this was to occur in any other profession, let alone one where lives are at risk, there would be outrage. Imagine bus drivers being able to legally call themselves a pilot and trying to fly planes. Scary stuff. The government is promising to regulate this but so far only Queensland has any kind of restrictions the exchange rate. Too often Australian plastic surgeons end up correcting complications from poorly performed plastic surgery procedures. Unfortunately, victims find that the original ‘plastic surgeon’ is missing in action when problems occur – especially because many complications of plastic surgery can appear well after they have returned to Australia. Corrective plastic surgery is usually difficult and often requires more than one operation and is inevitably much more expensive than if the surgery had been correctly performed in the first place.

Your best protection is to call the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons and check that your doctor has the necessary qualifications. This society only accepts members who have completed the training and rigorous examinations to gain an FRACS in plastic surgery. For information call 1300 367 446.

Posted: October 26th, 2009

Posted In: Plastic Surgery

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