Plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons: What's the difference?

Posted at 03/04/14 9:23 PM

MANILA - The term "cosmetic surgeons" or "cosmetic doctors" have become so popular, sometimes even more popular than plastic surgeons.

Now, the Philippine Association of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgeons (PAPRAS) wants to educate the public about the difference between a cosmetic and a plastic surgeon.

"Plastic surgeons specialize in both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. When I reconstruct a burn patient's face, there is a cosmetic angle to it," said Dr. Carlos Lasa, president, PAPRAS.

Lasa lamented that many don't want to undergo rigorous training to become a plastic surgeon, which requires another 3 years of general surgery and another 5 years of plastic and reconstructive surgery for a total of 8 years on top of a medical degree.

PAPRAS reminded the public to do their research well when they want to undergo cosmetic enhancements. Instead of going through the tough training of becoming a plastic surgeon, others get certificate courses abroad and then become cosmetic surgeons.

"Some doctors would take short cuts. That's where the problem lies. We're not saying we're free of complications. We are board- certified plastic surgeons. We underwent full rigorous training and we are members of the Philippine Board of Plastic Surgery," said Dr. JJ Cruz, VP of PAPRAS.

PAPRAS is pushing for regulations so that government will recognize who are the specialists in the field.

Lasa said, under the old Medical Act of 1959, any doctor who passed the board exams can do any kind of treatment of surgery in the Philippines even without proper training.

"This is advantageous in rural areas where there are very few doctors but Metro Manila is highly urbanized. There is no reason why surgeons who do not specialize in cosmetic plastic surgery in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao can do plastic surgery," he added.

He appealed to doctors to train to be able to do a kind of specialty. Otherwise, they should leave the plastic surgery to plastic surgeons.

"What business do you have doing boobs when you are an EENT (Eye, ear, nose, throat doctor)? Respect our specialties. We have been abused. Our specialty is from head to foot. We overlap with certain specialists but stick to our anatomic boundary."

Former PAPRAS president and now national secretary of the international society of aesthetic plastic surgery (ISAPS) Dr. Florencio Lucero clarified that cosmetic surgery is not a specialty.

"It is a small aspect of the specialty of plastic surgery. It is not a simple procedure like going to a beauty parlor. It's a surgical procedure. Cosmetic surgery is something to be done by a surgeon that is familiar with wound healing."

The plastic surgeons made the statements at a press conference during the first international conference and instructional course for plastic surgeons sponsored by ISAPS.

"We planned out our program to benefit our practicing plastic surgeons and teach them the current techniques and latest in cosmetic surgery," said Lucero.