What Do I Look For When Considering Plastic Surgery?

Imagine this: you’ve made the decision to enhance your appearance with elective plastic surgery. Or, perhaps, you decided to have reconstructive breast surgery after a mastectomy or require reconstructive plastic surgery due to an accident or congenital disability. On the day of your surgery, you are optimistic about the results, but upon waking up, you realize that the outcome is not what you expected, and it may have even caused harm to your health. You wonder about the credentials of your surgeon and if they were board certified.

Unfortunately, botched plastic surgery happens more often than it should, typically because of a simple oversight – not using a board-certified plastic surgeon. That’s where people make a big mistake. Simply having a medical license or self-proclaimed title of a cosmetic surgeon does not automatically qualify a medical professional to perform plastic surgery.

Still, a growing number of physicians without training in plastic and reconstructive surgery are performing cosmetic surgeries, often at the expense of patient safety and outcomes. And surprisingly, in most states, it’s perfectly legal for them to do so since doctors in such states are not required to be board-certified in plastic surgery to perform cosmetic surgery.

This has led to a growing number of doctors from different fields, like dermatology, to offer cosmetic procedures. And while technically, they can perform cosmetic surgery and even call themselves cosmetic surgeons, it is important to remember that legally allowed and qualified are two different things. These doctors are not board-certified in plastic surgery, which means they have not undergone the education and training necessary to perform these delicate procedures.

In the world of plastic surgery, not all doctors are the same. If you are considering plastic surgery, be it aesthetic or reconstructive, or know someone that is, this article is a must-read.

We will explain…

  • What is a board-certified plastic surgeon?
  • What it means for a plastic surgeon to be board-certified.
  • What to look for when considering plastic surgery and choosing a cosmetic surgeon.
  • Why being board-certified matters when choosing a plastic surgeon.
  • The dangers of not choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon.
  • How to know for sure a plastic surgeon is board-certified.
  • Where to find a board-certified plastic surgeon in Tn.

What is a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon?

A board-certified plastic surgeon is not just a doctor with a comprehensive skill set; they are individuals who have invested years of training and education specific to plastic surgery.

Plastic surgeons have completed four years of medical school, followed by six years of plastic surgery training or surgical residency, and a dedicated 2 to 3 years of plastic surgery residency.

This translates to at least 12 years of intensive medical training, ensuring a deep understanding of anatomy, physiology, and the intricacies of body systems.

Moreover, board-certified plastic surgeons operate exclusively in accredited facilities, adhere to a strict code of ethics, pursue ongoing education, and maintain their certification to ensure their skills and knowledge remain at the forefront of the field.

Board-certified plastic surgeons specialize in sculpting aesthetic enhancements and possess a unique comprehension of facial anatomy and modification—a level of insight that cannot be matched by those lacking specialized plastic surgery training and board certification.

What It Means For A Plastic Surgeon To Be Board-Certified

Board certification for plastic surgeons signifies a pinnacle of specialized training and expertise.

To reach this status, a surgeon embarks on a journey of focused education and rigorous evaluation that goes far beyond the title of doctor.

The road to becoming a board-certified plastic surgeon spans at least a decade of education, residency, and examination to become board-certified.


A board-certified plastic surgeon’s path begins with a foundation of post-secondary education, encompassing a Bachelor’s degree in a premed major like biology or chemistry, followed by a doctor of medicine degree (MD). However, the journey doesn’t end there. The key stepping stone to board certification is completing surgical and cosmetic surgery residencies.


After formal education, plastic surgeons go on to complete a three-year surgical residency training tailored explicitly to plastic surgery. Then, they complete an additional three-year residency, exclusively focused on cosmetic surgery, refining the surgeon’s skills further.

This specialized residency is the gateway to board certification—a credential that holds immense weight. While any doctor may legally perform cosmetic surgery, it’s the completion of this residency that sets the stage for board certification.


Last but not least is the seal of approval awarded by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). The ultimate goal of board certification is to produce plastic surgeons who embody safety, ethics, and an extensive grasp of plastic surgery.

The ABPS certification is a testament to a surgeon’s dedication to their craft. To earn this title, a plastic surgeon must successfully complete their cosmetic surgery residency and demonstrate their procedural knowledge through written and oral exams.

When you choose a board-certified plastic surgeon, you’re selecting a professional who has dedicated their career to honing their skills and ensuring your safety and satisfaction.

What To Look For When Considering Plastic Surgery and Choosing a Cosmetic Surgeon

There are several factors to consider when considering plastic surgery and selecting a plastic surgeon to perform your procedure. Some things to consider include patient reviews, before and after photos, years in practice, the number of times the doctor has performed the procedure, and even the technological advancements employed by the doctor and clinic.

But amid these considerations, the most pivotal is whether your chosen doctor is board-certified in plastic surgery. Board certification in plastic surgery is an important mark of distinction, offering assurance that your chosen surgeon possesses a level of expertise and commitment that sets them apart in the world of cosmetic surgery.

Again, in most states, any licensed medical doctor can legally conduct cosmetic surgery and even label themselves as a cosmetic surgeon, regardless of training. Yet, this legal allowance doesn’t automatically translate into qualification.

Dr. Lett with The Lett Center explains why you should evaluate the history of each surgeon before moving forward with any cosmetic or reconstructive surgery.


Why Being Board-Certified in Plastic Surgery Matters

Plastic surgery procedures are very detailed, intricate, and advanced. You wouldn’t want a dermatologist to perform a root canal or a dentist to perform brain surgery. The same goes for plastic surgery.

Whether you are having breast augmentation, liposuction, a facelift, or any other cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, the only doctor that should perform such operations is a board-certified plastic surgeon.

The importance of only consulting with board-certified plastic surgeons is so crucial that The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) even started a campaign to bring attention to this critical issue, strongly advising against trusting your looks, your health, and even your life to any doctor who is not specialized in plastic surgery and certified by the ASPS.

As part of the effort, an online ASPS video shares the cautionary tale of New York City event planner Nafsika Lourentzatos. When she decided to invest in breast augmentation, she turned to a physician who was not board certified. Unfortunately, she suffered serious complications and ended up having to have both breasts removed.

“The doctor just promised me the world and beyond. And when you want something so badly, you overlook things, and you tend to believe them. I figured the silicone injections were something safe for me to try,” Lourentzatos says in the video. “I want other women to know that they should do their homework before choosing a doctor because it’s so important. I just wish I had done that for myself,” adds Lourentzatos.

Lourentzatos’s story holds profound significance. It is a reminder that just because someone has gone to med school, has MD credentials behind their name, and possibly even calls themselves a cosmetic surgeon does not make them qualified to perform plastic surgery.

The Dangers Of Not Choosing A Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

The type of complication Lourentzatos encountered is only one patient example of what can happen if you allow a physician who is not board-certified in plastic surgery to perform your procedure.

Not choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon opens the door to a host of potential complications and negative outcomes:

Unsatisfactory Aesthetic Outcome

A procedure performed by an inadequately trained practitioner can lead to outcomes that fall far short of your expectations. Achieving a harmonious aesthetic outcome requires both surgical skill and an understanding of artistry. A practitioner lacking in plastic surgery training may not possess this combination.

Botched Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery involves complex anatomical knowledge. Without proper training, there’s a higher likelihood of surgical errors that can result in much more severe consequences than not liking your results. It can have drastic effects on your appearance and well-being.

Unnecessary and Unsightly Scarring

A practitioner lacking specialized training might not have the skill required to minimize scars, potentially leaving you with more noticeable or unsightly scars.

Increased Risk of Costly Revisions

Subpar initial results often necessitate additional corrective surgeries, amplifying both financial and emotional burdens.

Higher Risk of Infection

Improper surgical techniques and post-operative care by a non-board-certified plastic surgeon can lead to infections, extending your recovery time and possibly requiring further medical interventions.

Higher Risk of Excess Bleeding or Blood Clots

The intricate nature of plastic surgery demands precision. Inadequate training can lead to excessive bleeding during and after the procedure. Additionally, the risk of blood clots increases when surgical procedures are performed by non-board-certified practitioners who lack a comprehensive understanding of plastic surgery techniques.

Nerve Damage

Plastic surgery involves delicate anatomical structures. A non-board-certified practitioner may inadvertently damage nerves, leading to long-term sensory issues or pain.

Prolonged Recovery

Without the expertise of a board-certified plastic surgeon, complications during surgery might lead to a prolonged and uncomfortable recovery period.

Psychological Stress

A disappointing outcome from a procedure can lead to emotional distress and a decrease in self-confidence.

Severe Complications and Death

In the most severe cases, complications stemming from improperly performed procedures can result in severe health issues or even death.

How To Know For Sure That A Plastic Surgeon Is Board-Certified

In the realm of cosmetic surgery, there’s a concerning reality: doctors from different specialties may perform cosmetic surgeries without the essential training or board certification in plastic surgery. This gets even more confusing as state laws often permit any licensed physician to label themselves as a cosmetic surgeon, regardless of their background.

The first thing you can do to help ensure the doctor performing your cosmetic procedure is board-certified in plastic surgery is to check the physician’s webpage. Do not only look for credentials such as Dr. before their name, MD after, or merely “board-certified.”

Just because they went to med school or are “board-certified” does not mean they are board-certified in plastic surgery. Doctors might be board-certified in their respective fields, but not plastic surgery. Look specifically for board certified in plastic surgery. The doctor might also list this as board-certified in cosmetic, aesthetic, or reconstructive surgery.

You can also look for one of the American Board of Plastic Surgery logos on their website. But really, you should take things a step further and search the ABPS database. Because while many non-certified doctors who perform plastic surgery procedures are upfront that they are not board-certified in plastic surgery, some lie or stretch the truth.

Even if a doctor has “board-certified” listed on their webpage or even has certificates hanging on the wall, it’s best to dig a little deeper and utilize the search feature on the website of the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

The search functionality provided on the ABPS website offers an effective method to locate a board-certified plastic surgeon within your vicinity. If you’re beginning your search without a specific surgeon in mind, initiating your quest there is a valuable starting point.

Where to Find a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon in Tennessee

At The Lett Center, we strongly believe that cosmetic surgery can dramatically improve quality of life, boosting confidence and raising self-esteem. For safe and beautiful results, our surgeon Dwayne Lett, M.D., is not only board-certified in aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery but has years of experience performing these delicate procedures.

Whether you are interested in breast augmentation, a breast lift, reconstructive breast surgery, a tummy tuck, a nose job, a full mommy makeover, or any other cosmetic or reconstructive plastic surgery procedure, don’t risk your results or your health. Schedule an initial consultation with our board-certified cosmetic surgeon Dwayne Lett, M.D., one of Nashville’s most reputable plastic surgeons.

Call The Lett Center today!