The use of abbreviations is an accepted practice in the medical profession, but most potential patients don’t know what all those letters behind a doctor’s name mean. Following is a list of some common credentials in the cosmetic surgery field.
Don’t be afraid to ask a surgeon any questions you have about their qualifications – and they should willingly talk to you about their training and certification.
MD - everyone knows what these initials stand for. But you should be aware of the fact that it’s not illegal for MDs to refer to themselves as ‘cosmetic surgeons’ – even when they have had no specialized training.
FRCSC - This stand for Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada. To be certified in plastic surgery, doctors do a 5-year residency program after receiving their MD. Training involves on-going oral and practical evaluation. If successful, the doctor becomes FRCSC. When these initials appear after a surgeon’s name, it indicates certification in a specialty – ophthalmology, otolaryngogly or plastic surgery, for example. Sometimes you will see the term ‘plastic surgeon’ used generically by a doctor who has not actually trained in this area; legally, he or she must always add the specialty in which certification has been obtained.
MD - Otolaryngology – You usually find this designation used in tandem with FRCSC (explained above). It means that the surgeon’s specialty is otolaryngology – or ears, nose and throat. Otolaryngologists focus on surgery of the face and neck, and generally refer to them selves as cosmetic facial surgeons when working in this field.
FRCPC - A Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada goes through the same certification process as an FRCSC candidate. Instead of choosing a surgical specialty, however, these doctors focus on a medical one – the dermatologist who relies on drugs and medication to treat patients is a good example of this designation.
FACS - A doctor who has these initials after his or her name is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. To be successful Canadian candidates must pass an evaluation of their education, training and surgical competence.
Board Certified - It sounds good, but what does it mean? In Canada, our only board is The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. In the U.S., it could be any one of a number of organizations such as the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ABFPRS), The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery (ABHRS). To gain certification, an applicant is subject to a peer review and must take exams.
Fellows - This term is primarily used to designate someone who has achieved Royal College certification in their specialty (i.e. FRCSC or FRCPC). It is also used to designate membership in an academic society, such as the Fellowship of the Canadian Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery or Canadian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Each surgical and medical specialty usually has a society. Membership as a fellow usually requires prior FRCSC or FRCPC certification in the specialty or a related specialty. The primary goals of these are sharing knowledge and public information.
To check on the specialty of a doctor and to verify certification, contact:
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada
Other organizations that provide information are:
The Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
The Canadian Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
The American College of Surgeons
The American College of Phlebology