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A Plastic Surgeon is a surgical specialist (a Surgeon) who has completed a minimum of five years of study and training in Plastic Surgery after receiving a medical degree. They are specifically qualified to practice Reconstructive and Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. This qualification is regulated by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

“Cosmetic Surgeon” is a general term used by many physicians, including physicians who may not have had any formal training in surgery. There is no certification process to become a “Cosmetic Surgeon” and there is no such specialty designation by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

To become certified in Plastic Surgery, your Plastic Surgeon must first complete an approved five-year residency in Plastic Surgery. At the end of their residency training, they must pass a two day written and oral examination in all areas of Plastic Surgery. In addition, your Plastic Surgeon may have also gone on to extra training after becoming certified as a Plastic Surgeon in subspecialty areas of Plastic Surgery. This extra training is known as Fellowship training.

In order to maintain these credentials, your Plastic Surgeon must complete 400 hours of continuing medical education in Plastic Surgery in a five-year period. This is mandatory and is set out by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeon of Canada. This process continues until your Surgeon retires.

Other types of physicians performing cosmetic procedures do not have these stringent training and maintenance of certification requirements in Plastic Surgery that a fully certified Plastic Surgeon has.

There is a lot of confusion about titles and who is and is not a Plastic Surgeon.  Can you help clear up the confusion?

In 2008, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) sought out opinions and working with the Ministry of Health, introduced new rules on the use of Specialist titles that was introduced in February of 2009. Prior to this, there was no restriction on the use of “Surgeon” or “Plastic”. Thus, physicians who were neither Surgeons nor Plastic Surgeons could advertise that they were. The title “Cosmetic Surgeon” was commonly in use – it reflected neither a person’s training nor competence.

As of February 2009, sweeping changes have been brought into effect. The words “Surgeon” and “Surgery” can only be used by physicians that are Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) certified in a surgical specialty or have been recognized by the CPSO as a Surgeon. Thus, only fully trained Surgeons can call themselves Surgeons. No more weekend courses allowing physicians to call themselves “Cosmetic Surgeons”. This title officially no longer exists.

Furthermore, “Plastic” can only be used by physicians who are RCPSC certified in Plastic Surgery. Thus only Plastic Surgeons can call themselves Plastic Surgeons. However, other specialists (such as General Surgeons, Otolaryngologists (ENT: Ear, Nose and Throat), Ophthalmologists can describe services they offer after they define their training. For example, a Plastic Surgeon will self-describe as “Dr. O’Grady, Plastic Surgeon”. Other surgical specialists (who are not certified in Plastic Surgery) may describe themselves as “Dr. Y, Otolaryngologist or General Surgeon or Ophthalmologist, Practicing in Facial Plastic Surgery”. Physicians who are not Surgeons may self describe as “Practicing in Cosmetic Medicine”.

The CPSO regulations were developed in response to the confusion that existed in advertising and promotional materials among physicians offering cosmetic surgery. It allows physicians to accurately describe their practice while protecting the public by establishing a consistent and factual framework for the use of specialist titles. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario also felt that restrictions were required to ensure that the public does not make important medical decisions based on misperception.

“Certified” or “Board Certified” But What Are They Certified In?

In Canada, all Surgeons must be Certified to practice Surgery within their area of specialty. It is the law. In Ontario, the College of Physicians and Surgeons has mandated that only Surgeons certified in a surgical specialty with five years of training may call themselves Surgeons. This has gone a long way in helping protect the public. All Surgeons will have the letters FRCSC at the end of their names and stands for Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada. It does not mean they are certified in Plastic Surgery – all Surgeons are entitled to this
 designation.

However, Surgeons can be certified in General Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Vascular Surgery, Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Ophthalmic Surgery (eye) or Plastic Surgery for example.

Thus, do NOT assume that someone is a Plastic Surgeon because they proclaim they are “board certified”. Ask what they are board certified in and make sure they are certified in Canada.  Also be cautious of “Academies”.  Academies are not board certification agencies affiliated either with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (www.royalcollege.ca) or the American Board of Medical Specialties (www.abms.org) in the United States.  To be a member of an academy often requires the payment of a fee only and does NOT imply any board certification by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada or the American Board of Medical Specialties in Plastic Surgery.

Dr. O’Grady is certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in Plastic Surgery, the only recognized certification for Plastic Surgery in Canada.

As well, the American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only recognized certification process for Plastic Surgeons in the United States.

Why do I need a highly trained Plastic Surgeon ?

The techniques used during aesthetic surgery are derived from those used in the complex and demanding field of reconstructive surgery. It requires competent surgical skill, an in-depth understanding of body parts and good aesthetic judgment on the part of the Surgeon.

There is a balance and harmony to the human body. Even “simple” surgical procedures like liposuction, for example, can be dangerous if performed by someone without extensive surgical training. The removal of too much fat may result in tissue damage and poor cosmetic results. In rare circumstances, organ damage and even death can result. Be smart and be safe. Choose a Plastic Surgeon to perform your liposuction.

Dr. O’Grady is a Certified and Fellowship Trained Plastic Surgeon

Dr. O’Grady underwent a five year qualified Plastic Surgery residency at McMaster University, which entitled him to the classification of Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada (FRCSC) in Plastic Surgery.

After his residency training, he undertook a Fellowship in Breast Reconstruction and Cosmetic Breast Surgery at Women’s College Hospital, one of the leading hospitals in Canada for Breast Reconstruction and Breast Surgery. He also obtained a fellowship in Craniofacial Surgery at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Canada’s busiest trauma centre. Craniofacial Surgery is a subspecialty of Plastic Surgery that deals with congenital (birth) and acquired deformities of the skull, face and jaws. It deals with the manipulation of bone, skin, muscle and teeth to improve 
the form and function of the face.