Peter Galpin, M.D., FACS

Kahului, HI (96732)

200 Kalepa Pl # 203

(XXX) XXX-XX00 phone

(808) 877-7480 fax

Memberships & Affiliations


Choosing a Plastic Surgeon

When you enter the world of cosmetic/plastic/aesthetic surgery, you are entering a different type of doctor-patient relationship. It is much more of a consumer oriented environment than any other medical situation. As a consumer of cosmetic surgery, you must try to distinguish between marketing and substance.

In my opinion, there are three important factors when assessing your plastic surgeon:

1) Are They Qualified?

This is becoming a very difficult issue for the average consumer. First of all, anyone can call themselves a "plastic surgeon." There is nothing to stop any physician describing himself as a "plastic surgeon," regardless of his area of training, or whether he has any training at all. So you must be cautious of any advertising which makes a general claim of qualifications without specifics as to where and in what fashion they acquired their training.

Board Certification. This can also be somewhat confusing. While there are several boards which claim to asses a surgeon’s skill in Plastic Surgery, there is only one board which is certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties (the ABMS is the organization which examines the quality of medical training in the country). That is the American Board of Plastic Surgery. There are several other boards which have not been certified by the ABMS which are referred to as "self-designated" boards. Their training methods, qualifications, and review standards are not independently monitored by the ABMS (These would include: The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, The American Board of Facial Plastic Surgery, The American Board of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and others). Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery means the individual has undergone nationally recognized and approved training in Plastic Surgery, passed rigorous examination of his work, and meets the highest ethical standards.

How can I find out if my doctor is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery? Both the American Board of Medical Specialties, and the American Board of Plastic Surgery have websites and toll-free numbers to call. Also your doctor should always be happy to tell you which board he is certified by.

Hospital Privileges. Some patients feel shy about asking a physician directly about their qualifications (Let me say again, you shouldn’t feel shy or reluctant. This is your body. You deserve to know who you are dealing with). Another way is to ask the physician or office staff which hospital the doctor uses for surgery. Yes, most cosmetic procedures can be done in an office, but the doctor should still be on staff at a local hospital. You can then call that hospital and they will be happy to tell you whether the doctor has "privileges" to perform the operation he is recommending at that hospital.

Why is that important? If a physician uses a hospital, that hospital is liable for his actions. As such, hospitals look very closely at surgeons’ qualifications, training, and ethics. They will be sure he carries malpractice insurance (another level of scrutiny for you, as insurance companies rarely insure unqualified individuals), they will be sure he maintains his continuing medical education, and will likely have him observed doing surgery before letting him operate alone.

Again, you may not need to have your operation in a hospital, but your doctor should be able to use a hospital to do it should you desire.

Professional Associations. A physician or his staff should be able to tell you to which organizations the doctor belongs too. One of the largest associations is the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPRS). This organization checks on a doctor’s credentials, ethics, and continuing medical education. The ASPRS has a website ( which will tell you if a doctor is a member.

Again, you should not be shy about asking your doctor or his staff about these issues.

2) Do I get along with him?

This is a consumer-oriented event. You want to be in a situation where you feel comfortable, and that you are getting the information you need to make educated decisions. It is important you feel a rapport with your surgeon. Surgery has risk associated with it. Is this someone who, should something go wrong, you feel will be open with you and take the time to help you through a complicated recovery? Unfortunately, you just have to go with your gut on this.

3) Can I afford him?

Again, this is a consumer oriented event, and as such you want to price compare. While cost shouldn’t be the only factor, it still is something to be considered. Call around, get some input from other offices. Most offices should be able to give you a price range over the phone (obviously, they can’t give you a detailed price without seeing you). When you do, be sure you are comparing apples to apples. Are the qualifications the same? Does he operate in his office or a hospital? Does he use Board Certified Anesthesiologists? In general if you find someone dramatically less expensive than most, you probably want to know how he does it. If he’s charging a lot more, what are you getting for your money?