I am many things: a deep thinker, a colossal worrier, a person who neglects to wear sunglasses when driving on bright days.
As such, I am also an unintentional scowler. I spend probably 85 percent of my day with a brow so furrowed that, upon muscle release, my face actually hurts. And I find that even though I am only in my mid-20s, because of everything else I am, I am also a person with a vertical slash so etched between my eyes, it's less like a line and more like a deep groove.
While I'm not certain that a partial facelift (like an upper eye lid lift maybe?) would fix the problem, I'm hopeful that it would; it would be a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of resolution as I've always felt I had droopy eyes.
Like the defined ridge in my forehead, plastic surgery has a strong dividing line of those who would have one or two (or three, four, five...) procedures done and those who would never change anything about themselves. Of that first group, many decisions have to be made, like how to fund it, and more importantly, where to have the work performed. I am nowhere near having a medical degree that would lead me to believe the aforementioned procedure would be right for my needs, but I know that if I did make the decision to have anything done, I would fully do my research to find the best man or woman for the job.
But that's where it gets tricky for the average plastic surgery consumer. Once the decision to improve your looks has been made, you are responsible for finding the right doctor to perform the delicate task. How does one go about finding the right person, the most capable person for the job? Speaking with local plastic surgeon, Dr. Greg Ratliff, who has been in practice for 18 years, I learned nuances between plastic surgeons are more pronounced than with any other medical specialty.
Dr. Ratliff said that prior to the 1930s and 1940s, a doctor was a doctor. If the doctor wanted to be a specialist, he or she just had to declare themselves one. Around that time, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) was founded, defining roughly 24 medical specialties, their sub-specialties and the qualifications required to declare that specialty (like a neurologist or a plastic surgeon).
However, by the 1970s, plastic surgeons who couldn't meet the ABMS qualifications made their own board. Namely, this second board required less training to be so-called "certified." The American Board of Plastic Surgery's Web site says it "is the only ABMS board which certifies in the full spectrum of the specialty of plastic surgery of the entire body. That is, plastic and reconstructive surgery of the head and neck, trunk and extremities."
ABPS-certified surgeons complete a lengthy process before they receive the certification. Dr. Ratliff, who is ABPS certified, said that you cannot begin the process of certification until you have completed one year in practice.
After one has completed all necessary training, the doctor takes an extensive written exam. After passing that portion and another year of practice, the doctor takes an oral exam.
If that exam is passed, that doctor spends another two years studying casework.
Dr. Ratliff said the process is intensive, but once completed the plastic surgeon is sure to have three to five years of experience and is considered highly skilled. Plastic surgery requires knowledge applied throughout the whole body--the face, breasts, stomach and any other area--which sets it apart from other fields.
The problem, as mentioned above, is that during the last 30 years, a second board has sprung up that doesn't require this intensive training. This second board of plastic surgeons has become an issue almost exclusively to its field. Most specialty procedures, heart surgery for instance, are performed in a hospital and therefore monitored by that hospital. If a doctor was not a qualified cardiologist, that hospital would not permit that doctor to perform a heart surgery. But, since most plastic surgery offices are private practices, the physician can decide who can perform surgeries in his or her office. This permits plastic surgeons with the other certification, which may only entail one year of work, to perform operations.
Selecting someone to perform any type of surgery should never be taken lightly. Dr. Ratliff said the old adage (of which I'm paraphrasing here) that says even the guy who graduated last in his class still becomes a doctor, is not really true with plastic surgery.
Of medical students, only the top 25 percent of students receive a surgical residency. Of that 25 percent, only 15 percent become plastic surgeons. And the reason for this is simple competition, according to Dr. Ratliff. "It's the top of the top," he said.
This does help weed out those less qualified. The certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery, of which Dr. Ratliff is passionate about, is that extra factor that showcases the skilled plastic surgeons.
One of Dr. Ratliff's patients (whom I found through asking among friends and family members who have had plastic surgery who their doctor was) based her decision to use Dr. Ratliff after thorough research of practices in Tulsa.
Her decision to use Dr. Ratliff was further solidified when she spoke with a friend who praised Dr. Ratliff's work. Dr. Ratliff said this is the correct process one should take when deciding which doctor to use.
He recommended that you ask friends and family members who did their work and about their experience. Once you have assembled a list of potential doctors, log onto www.abms.org and type in the doctor's name.
If he/she shows up on the list, the doctor is worthy of further research. If not, it might mean their practice is still young or it could mean they have not passed a portion of their certification exam.
As Dr. Ratliff noted, the ABMS list only lets you know that the doctor has been certified and in practice for at least three to five years. If that physician is not certified by the ABPS, but they still list themselves as certified, find out more. But the quest to find the right doctor for your needs shouldn't end there. Any decision you make should also involve visiting the practice, having a consultation with the physician and possibly viewing some of his/her work.
Taking this approach would certainly provide you with more information than if you were to go to an online search engine (like Google or Yahoo) and type in a few keywords. A good marketing campaign does not necessitate surgical skills. Dr. Ratliff, who is not opposed to effective marketing, said that you should still take the time to further investigate any physician before you make a decision. Come prepared with questions (Dr. Ratliff's Web site, pscoftulsa.com, has examples), to help you further educate yourself before making this life, and body changing experience.
Remember that plastic surgery is just that, surgery; it poses risks. Rather than spending your time worrying about that, though, be proactive with research and knowledgeable about the procedure and the person performing it.
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