As the Creative Director of Trusted Surgeons, I was very proud to part of the story the Daily Telegraph released to raise awareness on the issues plaguing the cosmetic industry. Dr Nicholas Moncrieff from Hunter Plastic Surgery and Dr Mark Magnusson from Esteem Medi Spa also supported the story. I am very passionate about the industry but I had a deep seeded frustration because of my experiences at one of Australia’s busiest breast augmentation clinics. Not choosing a qualified surgeon has had a dreadful impact on many of these women’s lives.
Trusted Surgeons was born out of this frustration. There was a void in the market and I felt I had the chance to help the thousands of women whom are seeking surgeons to perform cosmetic surgery. What still drives me, is that these issues are continuing now, unchecked by any governing or peak body. Trusted Surgeons is the only platform that differentiates between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon, outside of the peak bodies, Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS). Only members of these peak bodies are listed so that when a patient chooses from the site they are assured that they are getting a surgeon they can trust.
I hear from hundreds of women about their botched surgery through the various platforms Trusted Surgeons run, including our private Facebook page. I am aware of the class action law suit that has been launched against The Cosmetic Institute (TCI) and some of these patients are part of the class action lawsuit. This will preclude them from telling their stories. I am a strong supporter of their case and hope they receive the compensation they deserve. Goodness, TCI has had a dreadful impact on their lives and I personally have struggled and still do, with the stigma of working at TCI. I can say from my experience, the level of empathy from some of the surgeons, was deplorable. I am saddened that there are still doctors in the system like these surgeons and they continue to operate and possibly cause more damage and effect more lives. But it is important to note they are not the only ones.
Part of the picture that I believe everyone is missing, is that it is not as simple as Cosmetic Vs Plastic. It is about having surgeons that are suitably qualified and have the skills and training required to perform the complex procedures being undertaken. Certainly, a board-certified Specialist Plastic and reconstructive surgeon is suitably qualified but what about the cosmetic surgeons. As I see it, within the Cosmetic field, there are 2 levels of surgeons. There are surgeons that have completed a further training program through the; The Royal College of Surgeons – ENT, General Surgery, Breast Oncology, or another speciality other than Plastics. In addition are the cosmetic surgeons from the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery (ACCS) which is not a recognised accredited professional body, and then there are those that have just completed their basic medical training. Some of the members and mentors of ACCS are surgeons like Dr Anoop Rastogi, Dr John Flynn and Dr Darryl Hodgkinson and are highly qualified cosmetic surgeons. The real issue is the basic doctors and general practitioners calling themselves "cosmetic" surgeons.
Many clinics use this loop hole and facilitate doctors that are inexperienced in aesthetics to become "surgeons" and work beyond their level of skill. The title is certainly misleading and a dentist, heart surgeon, medical doctor just out of uni, basically anyone who has studied a bachelor of medicine can call them self a cosmetic surgeon. The frustrating part is that they are not doing anything wrong in the eyes of the law. There is no law that prevents a doctor regardless of skill and training, from calling themselves a cosmetic surgeon. There is no minimum benchmark set to hold these doctors accountable. ACCS has been set up to try and bring some order to this chaos.
ACCS is not recognised as an accredited program by the Royal Australian College of Surgeons (RACS), however these surgeons at the very least do commit to a program and ongoing education. They have set a minimum benchmark to be achieved and only allow surgeons through, that achieve those bench marks. As opposed to the medical industry not setting any minimum benchmark therefore creating the problems we are seeing now. Without the government or RACS stepping in to regulate this industry, you will continue to see cowboys emerge with no other qualification other than a medical degree and can wield a knife with no basic surgical training at all. Rather than fuel this argument, both plastics and cosmetics could unite to determine what would be the best level of training required to be a cosmetic surgeon (for those that have no interest in reconstructive surgery) and develop a recognised program. This will then pave the way for either the government, the Australian Medical Association, or even the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to then set restrictions on who can be called a cosmetic surgeon. Alternatively it may be decided only a Specialist Plastic Surgeon can utilise this title and the confusion is completely dissipated.
Many people have contacted me about the article praising me for standing up and being heard. I have even been referred to as the ‘Angel of safe surgery’, I hope it will stick. I am most certainly an advocate of safe surgery and will continue to promote Trusted Surgeons, patient safety, and education. I will continue to empower people to make informed decisions with regards to surgery. Surgery can improve one’s quality of life in so many ways but it can also have a negative impact. Be smart, be savvy, be safe, and above all, choose a Surgeon you can trust!
By Nicole Montgomery