Choosing Your Plastic Surgeon

The decision to have plastic surgery can be quite daunting. There’s a lot that goes into the decision, including what procedures you want, when to have the surgery, and who to choose as your surgeon. For now, let’s focus on how to properly choose your plastic surgeon for your procedure. This is probably the most important step in the process since a skilled surgeon will be able to properly guide you towards the most appropriate procedure for your needs, and also be able to perform that procedure safely.  While no surgical procedure is entirely risk-free, many of the complications that I have seen over my 15 years as a plastic surgeon could likely have been avoided if the patient had chosen an appropriate surgeon.

Educational Credentials and. Board Certification.

The first place to start when selecting a surgeon is to check their credentials. This includes where they went to medical school, what residency program they completed, and if they have completed and maintained the appropriate certification.  If they have not satisfied this basic level of educational credentials and board certification, then you should immediately cross them off your list of potential surgeons.

Medical School

It may be interesting to know where your potential surgeon went to college and medical school however, this is not as important as you may think. Of course, the surgeons who went to an Ivy League school will proudly post on their website that they are “Ivy League educated”. However, as we all know there are excellent colleges and medical schools that are not Ivy League. What is important however is that your surgeon went to an accredited medical school. All accredited medical schools have standardized curriculums, so as long as the medical school is accredited, you can feel confident that they had the appropriate education. 

Residency Program

More important than where they went to medical school is where they did their residency. Residency training is additional education in a specific field that is completed after medical school. If you are looking to have plastic surgery, you must verify that your surgeon completed a plastic surgery residency program. This residency program is usually 6 to 8 years of training in plastic surgery after medical school. This will help make you more confident that your plastic surgeon has been appropriately trained. It is important to verify that they Indeed completed a plastic surgery residency. It is possible for other doctors who have not completed a plastic surgery residency program to still legally perform cosmetic surgery.

Board Certification

Another important step in choosing your plastic surgeon is to verify that they are board certified in plastic surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This means that they have completed an accredited residency program in plastic surgery, and have gone on to complete oral testing and written testing to help verify their knowledge and skills. The American Board of Plastic Surgery also requires ongoing education, maintenance of certification with regular testing, and adherance to ethical guidelines of the board. If your surgeon is board certified by the American Board of plastic surgery, it will be proudly displayed on their website, on their office walls, and on their business cards. If you do not see clear display of the fact that they are board-certified in plastic surgery, then they most likely are not. Also, please do not confuse “board-certified” and “board-certified in plastic surgery”. It is possible for someone to be board-certified in another specialty such as internal medicine, cardiology, pediatrics, dermatology, etc., but you would not want them performing your plastic surgery procedure. You want to make sure that your surgeon is specifically board certified in plastic surgery. Again, if they are, they will be screaming it from the mountaintop. You can also check online directories to verify your surgeons for certification, such as


Next you want to make sure that you are board-certified plastic surgeon is experienced. The fact that they are board-certified should make you comfortable that they are experienced as plastic surgeons. However, you want to make sure that they are experienced in the specific procedure that you are interested in. The field of plastic surgery is very broad. This means that plastic surgeons are trained to treat a variety of conditions and perform a variety of surgeries from head to toe. Many surgeons have gone on to specialize in specific procedures or specific body parts. This means that if you were interested in having a breast procedure, then you want to make sure that your surgeon is experienced and specialized in performing breast surgeries. If you are interested in having a tummy tuck, then you want to make sure that your surgeon performs a lot of tummy tucks. The easiest way to find this out is to ask the surgeon or the office how many of these specific procedures  they perform each month and each year. If your surgeon only performs a handful of the specific surgeries per year, then you may want to look for someone who is more of an expert.


Do you want to make sure that you are familiar with the types of results that your surgeon can offer you. This means that you should look at before and after pictures from your surgeon. These can often be found on your surgeons’ website or other websites that are commonly used. It is more than just looking to see if the results are “good”. You want to make sure that your surgeons aesthetic matches your aesthetic. For example, there are many surgeons who perform a lot of breast augmentations, but their results tend to be larger and less natural looking. If this is the type of lock that you are going for ,then great. However, if you were looking for a more natural result with smaller implants, then you should find a surgeon who commonly offers similar results.

Online Reviews

Another way to help select your surgeon is to look for online reviews from former patients. This is a good way to find out about other people’s experience. You should be careful though when looking at online reviews because online reviews can be manipulated. Some surgeons have found a way to successfully remove negative reviews. Others have found a way to post highly positive reviews written by friends, family, or staff members. I’m not trying to say that online reviews are all fake. But you should keep in mind that some reviews may not be 100% credible. This means that you should find a handful of negative reviews for any surgeon. The presence of negative reviews, does not mean that the surgeon is bad. It is impossible to please 100% of all patients all the time. This means that a busy surgeon who performs hundreds of procedures a year, is likely to have a handful of unhappy patients. This does not mean that the surgeon is a bad surgeon and it does not mean that the surgeon did a bad job. The patient may be unhappy for reasons that the surgeon had no control over. I personally would not trust a surgeon who has hundreds of glowing positive reviews, yet it is impossible to find anything negative.  If I could only name names…….

Speak with Former Patients

Another way to choose your surgeon is to actually speak personally with former patients. Many offices will be able to provide the name and number of former patients willing to discuss their experiences with you. This usually offers a better opportunity to find out information that you will not be able to find out from simply reading an online review. Again, keep in mind that the office will not give you the name of an unhappy patient. But, you can feel more comfortable knowing that the person you were talking to is an actual patient who had an actual procedure with the surgeon.

Have a Consultation

The final step in choosing your surgeon is to have a consultation. This gives you an opportunity to meet the staff, meet the surgeon, and decide if they are the right surgeon for you. You can get to know the surgeon’s personality, and ask them questions about the procedure and their techniques. Choosing a surgeon is like choosing a friend or a partner. Your personalities, and goals need to match.


To set up your consultation with Dr. Matthew Schulman, New York City board-certified plastic surgeon, contact us through the website or by phone.


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