How to find the right Surgeon for your Procedure
When you are researching and choosing your doctor, you will find that they may have a multitude of letters after their name. In Australia they may have any of the following, FRACS, RACS, ASPS, ASAPS, ISAPS, ACCS, ACCSM and many others as well, but what do they all mean?
Letters after a name (called “post-nominals”) usually refer to either educational qualifications or membership of an organisation.
|a university graduate in medicine, i.e. a “doctor”
|a medical specialist surgeon, i.e. a doctor who has done several years of further government-accredited training in a defined surgical specialty such as orthopaedics or plastic surgery. If in plastic surgery, the specialist will use the “FRACS (Plast)” post-nominal.
|ASPS, ASAPS, ISAPS, ACCS, ACCSM, RACGP, CPCA, ACCS, ACCSM, AAFPS, ACD, ASCD, ISAPS, NZCSM, ACAM, ACAA, ASDC, AMA, BreastSurgANZ, NZAPS
|These are all fee-charging membership organisations. Some (like ASPS and ASAPS) require members to be specialist plastic surgeons before they can join; others have different, usually less stringent, requirements. Some organisations also conduct training in some or all aspects of plastic, reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. However, these courses may or may not be government accredited. See below for explanations of all these organisations.
Currently, ANY person who has graduated from a basic university medical degree in Australia can call themselves a doctor and a surgeon. Their qualification “MBBS” stands for Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. However, despite what it suggests, “MBBS” doesn’t mean your doctor has had any specialist training in surgery, which happens after a person has graduated from their basic medical degree (“post-graduate”).
To resolve this confusion, a government enquiry has been established to clarify the use of the title “surgeon”.
ANY MBBS qualified doctor can advertise that they perform plastic surgery procedures or cosmetic surgery, or work in a plastic surgery clinic. It is important to understand that within Australia and New Zealand there are no legal requirements for a doctor wishing to perform surgical procedures to have undergone any specific or specialist post-graduate training in surgery.
In Australia, there is only one medical college which provides government accredited specialist training and post-graduate qualifications for doctors wishing to become specialist surgeons. That college is the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS).
A specialist surgeon trained by RACS will have the initials FRACS after their name, meaning they are a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
It is important to ensure your surgeon has undergone accredited, post-graduate training. If they are a specialist surgeon, they will be able to put FRACS after their name.
If your surgeon has qualifications gained overseas (and you are comfortable with that), do your research and find out whether they are government-accredited surgeon qualifications in that country.
Who is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon?
In Australia, not just ANY surgeon can advertise themselves as a plastic surgeon. A “Specialist Plastic Surgeon” is a Commonwealth Government accredited plastic surgeon, meaning that they have undergone additional specialist training by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) in plastic surgery. They will usually display the initials FRACS (Plast) after their name and they will most likely be a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
In Australia, the national Medical Board states that the “Specialist Plastic Surgeon” title can only be used by RACS approved specialist surgeons. These surgeons undergo extensive post-graduate training in surgery, and it is because of this that we recommend that you only consult with a fully qualified specialist plastic surgeon.
Who is a Facial Plastic Surgeon?
A doctor who calls themselves a “Facial Plastic Surgeon” may or may not actually be a “specialist plastic surgeon”. In some cases, they may be a doctor who has completed formal training in ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat), ophthalmology, dermatology, maxillofacial surgery, or even general surgery before going on to do further training in surgery of the face. They may also be members of the Australasian Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery (AAFPS).
In contrast, a “Specialist Facial Plastic Surgeon” is a specialist plastic surgeon who focuses on cosmetic and / or reconstructive surgery of the head and neck only. They commonly perform procedures relating to the eyes, ears, nose, neck, face, chin and skin. Just like any plastic surgeon, a specialist facial plastic surgeon in Australia is a fully qualified Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS).
The best way to determine if your surgeon is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon is to look for the initials FRACS (Plast) after their name.
Who is a ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’?
Doctors who refer to themselves as “Cosmetic Surgeons” may NOT have received any training from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). In fact they may not have done any additional training at all after their basic medical degree, although some will have done so outside of RACS.
Many Cosmetic Surgeons are NOT able to meet the high accreditation standards required to work in large public and private hospitals, and hence operate in their own rooms or some smaller Day Surgery Centres.
Cosmetic Surgeons will most likely be members or Fellows of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery & Medicine (ACCSM) and so may display the initials FACCSM after their name.
NOTE: The ACCSM is NOT a Government-accredited college. They are, and have been for some time, in the process of trying to obtain that certification.
Different Medical Groups, Associations and Organisations in Australia
This college was first established in 1927 and is the body responsible for training and examining all specialist surgeons in Australia and New Zealand. It is the only body recognised by the Australian Medical Board as being able to certify a doctor as suitably qualified to undertake significant surgery procedures. A doctor who is a Fellow of the RACS will have the initials FRACS after their name to signify that they have received extensive, post-graduate training in specific surgery procedures.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is Australia’s largest professional general practice organisation and represents urban and rural general practitioners (GPs).
The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons is the only society recognised by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons as the legitimate professional body representing the field of plastic, reconstructive and cosmetic surgery in Australia. Only Specialist Plastic Surgeons who are members of RACS with the FRACS (Plast) qualification are able to join the ASPS, and use the initials ASPS after their name.
The ASAPS is a society of Specialist Plastic Surgeons all of whom are Fellows of the RACS. The primary function of the society is the promotion of excellence in aesthetic (cosmetic) plastic surgery.
The ISAPS is an international society of board-certified Plastic Surgeons. Any Australian or New Zealand plastic surgeons wishing to join the international society have to be Fellows of the RACS (FRACS (Plast)).
The Australasian Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery (AAFPS) is a group of specialists in Australasia focusing solely on facial cosmetic & reconstructive procedures. Members may be qualified as ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) specialists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, maxillofacial surgeons, or even general surgeons. Some members, but not all, will be qualified as specialist plastic surgeons (FRACS (Plast)).
The New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons is a non-profit, professional association devoted to the maintenance of excellent ethical and professional standards within the field of cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. NZAPS represents most of New Zealand’s plastic surgeons and provides a strong voice for plastic surgeons in discussions with the government, the Ministry of Health and bodies such as the Medical Council. Our Education and Training Board oversees matters regarding the training of plastic and reconstructive surgeons in New Zealand and liaises closely with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
The ACD is the peak medical college accredited by the Australian Medical Council for the training and professional development of medical practitioners in the specialty of dermatology. They provide authoritative information about dermatology to Government, the media, other health professionals and the general public. Following at least two years of post-graduate hospital training, ACD members must do at least 4 additional years of supervised specialist dermatology training with final exams.
The purpose of the ACSD is to foster, equalise access and improve training in cosmetic dermatology for all Australasian dermatologists and registrars and, more broadly, to share dermatologists’ expertise with other disciplines. Membership is open to all Australian and New Zealand dermatologists and dermatology trainees.
The Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia (CPCA) was formed in 2014 by a group of doctors with a special interest in Cosmetic medicine. The College evolved from the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia which was formed in 1997. The principal objects of the College are to establish and maintain high standards of learning, skills and conduct from doctors working in cosmetic medicine. Membership is open to doctors who have completed six years of medical school, and at least two years in public hospitals.
The Society in Cosmetic Medicine, NZSCM, represents Cosmetic Medicine professionals in New Zealand and provides training, supervision and professional accreditation. Note that Specialist Plastic Surgeons in New Zealand are represented by NZAPS, not by NZCSM.
The Australasian College of Aesthetic Medicine (ACAM) is a membership of medical practitioners trained to high professional standards, whose objective is to serve the community by providing high-quality care. Full membership is open to any registered medical practitioner.
The Australasian College of Asian Aesthetics (ACAA) is the first medical training body in Australasia to focus on Asian facial aesthetics. A collaboration between cosmetic physicians, plastic surgeons and dermatologists, the ACAA addresses the specific cosmetic nuances of a highly represented demographic in the Australian community and seeks to educate the general public on legitimate cosmetic practice. “Enhancing beauty safely and ethically, achieving greater heights in cosmetic practice.” – Australasian College of Asian Aesthetics.
The ASDC represents Dermal Clinicians that are dedicated to ethical and evidence based practice, as well as maintaining ongoing education. The ASDC is a collaborative network of members that are clinical practitioners, educators, academics, researchers and industry representatives or associates.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is the most influential membership organisation representing registered medical practitioners and medical students of Australia. The AMA promotes and protects the professional interests of doctors and the health care needs of patients and communities.
The AMA advocates on behalf of its members at the Federal, and State and Territory levels by working with governments to increase and maintain provision of world class medical care to all Australians. The AMA improves patient care by supporting the medical profession through a range of essential services including protecting the academic, professional, and economic independence of medical practitioners; protecting the wellbeing of medical practitioners; promoting and advancing ethical behaviour of the medical profession; protecting the integrity and independence of the doctor/patient relationship; preserving and protecting the political, legal and industrial interests of medical practitioners.
The BreastSurgANZ Society was formed in 2010 and their members manage around 90% of the women with early breast cancer in Australia and New Zealand. The Society is committed to: improving patient care through monitoring the quality of care provided by all our members; facilitating research into new treatments that improve cure rates and quality of life of breast cancer suffers; the improvement of training of new breast surgeons; and improving the knowledge base of existing membership through educational events. Full membership requires a valid Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS), with Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and at least two years Post Fellowship Training in Breast Surgery.
The college was first formed in 1999 after evolving from the Australian Association of Cosmetic Surgery. This college has a single focus on training doctors on cosmetic procedures and offers formal training and accreditation specifically in cosmetic surgery. The college, which is NOT a Government accredited college, accredits doctors as cosmetic physicians or cosmetic surgeons depending on the particular training that they have received. A doctor who is a Fellow of the ACCSM will have the initials FACCS or FACCSM after their name.
OTHER MEDICAL GROUPS IN AUSTRALIA
- APAN – Aesthetics Practitioners Advisory Network
- OAA – Optometrists Association of Australia
- RANZCO & FRANZCO – Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Ophthalmology and Fellow of RANZCO
- ANZCA & FANZCA – Australian & New Zealand College of Anaesthetists and Fellow of ANZCA
MEDICAL GROUPS IN UK
- RCS & FRCS – Royal College of Surgeons in UK and Fellow of RCS
- RCSI & FRCSI – Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Fellow of RCSI
- BAPRAS – British Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons
- BAAPS – British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons
MEDICAL GROUPS IN USA
- ASPS – American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- The Aesthetic Society (previously ASAPS in USA)
- AACS – American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery
- ABCS – American Board of Cosmetic Surgery
OTHER TITLES DOCTORS USE
- Breast Surgeon – Maybe a General Surgeon with Cancer / Reconstructive Breast Surgery experience
- Aesthetic Surgeon – Not a Specialist Plastic Surgeon
- Oculoplastic Surgeon – Not a Specialist Plastic surgeon
- Oncoplastic Surgeon – Not a Specialist Plastic Surgeon
BEWARE OF MISLEADING MEDICAL CLINIC ADVERTISING
Always check the AHPRA registration of the medical practitioner at the Clinic.
- Plastic Surgery Clinic – Unlikely to be a Specialist Plastic Surgeon Clinic
- Cosmetic Surgery Clinic – Unlikely to be a Specialist Surgeon Clinic
- Cosmetic Clinic – Unlikely to be a Specialist Surgeon Clinic
- Liposuction Clinic – Unlikely to be a Specialist Surgeon Clinic
- Aesthetic Clinic – Unlikely to be a Specialist Surgeon Clinic