Yet another non-plastic surgeon is facing ire in the media for some of her patients’ fatal outcomes. While the media continues to report on unqualified “surgeons” performing highly complex procedures that end in catastrophe – and even death – there doesn’t seem to be much being done to prevent it. To top off this latest incident, the “cosmetic surgeon” is also know for dancing, singing, and performing in “operating room music videos,” another troubling sign that the patient’s well-being was not top priority.
The real surgeons – board certified plastic surgeons trained to care of their patients first – weigh in on the story and extract all of the red flags patients need to be looking out for.
The Old Cosmetic vs. Plastic Surgeon
Cosmetic is a confusing term in the field of plastic surgery. Plastic surgeons originally came to be doing reconstructive surgery – helping reconstruct the mangled bodies of soldiers from the world wars. Over time, aesthetic plastic surgery evolved from the specialty, providing cosmetic improvement to curious patients. The term cosmetic is only confusing in that aesthetic procedures are cosmetic procedures, but the title “cosmetic surgeon” is a way for unqualified practitioners to hitch their wagons to the immense training required of the title plastic surgeon.
“Let’s just start with the fact that she’s not a plastic surgeon doing surgical procedures,” shares board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jason Pozner. “She’s advertising herself as a plastic surgeon. Now, bad things can happen in our hands and in other peoples’ hands. We know that among real plastic surgeons, bad things can happen. But why take the chance to go to someone who is non-board certified, who isn’t a plastic surgeon, to do an invasive procedure?”
Dr. Pozner speaks to an incredibly important point: surgery is always dangerous. More than dangerous, it can be surprising – a quality that necessitates an accomplished surgeon to handle complications on the fly and keep their patients safe. After all, aesthetic plastic surgeons are physicians first; patient safety is always #1. If aesthetic procedures have the potential to be dangerous, as all surgery does, then why would a patient opting for the procedure want anything less than someone at the top of their game?
“I think if anyone calls themselves ‘the best,’ ‘the first,’ or ‘the only’… I think that raises a red flag,” explains board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Mark D. Epstein of Long Island. “I think patients need to be aware of that. A person who is truly skilled is generally going to be a little bit more humble and would be hesitant to call themselves by those terms. Certainly someone that isn’t even board certified in the specialty, and then to say that they’re the best, that kind of scares me.”
“When someone uses the term ‘cosmetic surgeon’ instead of plastic surgeon, that’s almost like saying, ‘Well, I took a weekend course where I taught myself. I did this because I didn’t go through plastic surgery training. I’m not a plastic surgeon, but I want you to think I’m a plastic surgeon so I’m not going tell you everything you really need to know.’ The whole thing is fraudulent.” – Mark D. Epstein, MD
Do Dermatologists Do Surgical Training?
The doctor in question is a trained dermatologist, so at least in this instance there is some semblance of medical training. The best dermatologists do have some training in surgical procedures, as they can perform the removal of dangerous skin issues. That does not equate to the years and years of surgical residency that plastic surgeons must complete, and that’s before a few more years of plastic-specific training. Either way, the physician in question being a dermatologist is less worrisome than her behavior in the operating room.
“This woman on the video, the other thing she’s famous for were these intraoperative music videos,” explains Dr. Pat McGuire, a board certified plastic surgeon in St. Louis. “She was doing surgical procedure where her knife was moving to the beat of the music! That takes it to a whole other level of wrong. In surgery you are paying attention to your surgery, not entertaining everyone around you. Also, her operating room, I would suspect, is not accredited. In one of the stories where they had to call 911, the elevators in her building didn’t fit a stretcher, so the paramedics had to carry the patient up and down the steps. It’s not only the surgeon, but the place where you’re having surgery as well.”
Surgery is Never a Game
Patients curious about cosmetic or other for-pay medical procedures may oftentimes think of it as less dangerous. After all, you don’t need to have the surgery, so surely it’s not as dangerous and intense as when someone’s life is on the line.
The truth is, surgery is surgery no matter the situation. Things can always go wrong and anesthesia is always dangerous. To counteract these things, the surgeon needs to be extremely qualified and in control, able to handle unforeseen complications to keep their patients safe. Even if no complications happen, the best surgeons are working as efficiently as possible to get their patients off the table as quickly as possible.
“When you’re a surgeon in the operating room and your patient is asleep, it’s almost as intense as a code,” shares Dr. Dan Del Vecchio, a board certified plastic surgeon in Boston. “You should be focused on that patient 100% and your goal is to finish that operation as efficiently as possible to minimize the anesthesia time. Everything that didn’t have to do with that patient care – dancing, singing, gesticulating – is all completely inappropriate. I think putting a camera in an operating room for entertainment should be illegal. I don’t think an operating room is where entertainment should be sourced. It’s a place where surgery should be performed.”
Patients looking for cosmetic procedures need to stay vigilant and demand the best. It may cost more, but your life is literally on the line. Some might argue that if there’s anything that’s worth spending a little extra on, it’s your life!