Cosmetic Specialist Pretender or Board Certified Medical Specialist?

Is your cosmetic physician a truly a board-certified medical specialist or just claiming to be a qualified physician?

Board-certified cosmetic specialists recognized by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) study for years to acquire the skills and training needed to excel competently as a cosmetic specialist. Certification requires completion of a multi-year residency or fellowship training programs in dermatology or plastic surgery.

In today’s market, consumers must be cautious. There are numerous non-certified specialists advertising aesthetic medical practices without the relevant formal education recognized by the ACGME. Many advertise themselves as aesthetic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons or even dermatologists, yet they will only be board-certified in pathology, emergency medicine, internal medicine or family practice. And while they may be competent in their own area of training, dermatology and plastic surgery require different residency programs. For patient safety and to provide the results patients expect and deserve physicians should complete the advanced training required to become a core specialist in plastic surgery or dermatology if they wish to practice in these fields.

Cutting corners to practice aesthetic medicine could also mean shortcutting in performing aesthetic procedures versus those who have invested years in training specifically for this specialty. Completing a core specialist residency program requires time and effort and should not be overlooked when selecting your aesthetic physician. Consumer safety confidence and the integrity of the specialty suffer when patients experience unsatisfactory results due to a lack of formal training.

Aesthetic physician services are not inexpensive and learning that your physician does not have the specialist additional training following poor results are two good reasons to search out a board certified cosmetic specialist to provide your aesthetic services. If your car needed a transmission repair, you wouldn’t go to a muffler specialist. Why accept less than what you expect and deserve? For more information on this please visit:

Dermatology requires a high degree of training and the mastery of many surgical and cosmetic skills. This additional education assures knowledge of and competence in performance of cryosurgery, dermatologic surgery (and lasers), anesthesia, electro-surgery, dermabrasion, scherotherapy, laser resurfacing, Mohs micrographic surgery, liposuction, chemical peels, tissue augmentation, hair transplantation, excisional surgery with appropriate closures including flaps and grafts and tissue augmentation. This is a brief summary of procedures that board-certified dermatologists and plastic surgeons are specifically trained to perform.

Be sure to check that the cosmetic specialist you are considering for your procedure is ACGME certified. Also, do not hesitate to ask for references. Board certification can be verified by calling the ACGME at 312-755-5000


Dermatologist: A dermatologist is a physician who is trained to evaluate and manage pediatric and adult patients with benign and malignant disorders of the skin, hair, nails and adjacent mucous membranes. A dermatologist has had additional training and experience in the following:

  • The diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers, melanomas, moles, and other tumors of the skin.
  • The management of contact dermatitis and other inflammatory skin disorders.
  • The recognition of the skin manifestations of systemic and infectious diseases.
  • Dermatopathology.
  • Surgical techniques used in dermatology.
  • Dermatologists also manage cosmetic skin enhancements for the skin, including hair loss, scars, and the skin changes associated with aging.

Dermatopathologist: A dermatopathologist is expert in the microscopic diagnosis of diseases of the skin, including infectious, immunologic, degenerative, and neoplastic diseases. This entails the examination and interpretation of specially prepared tissue sections, cellular scrapings, and smears of skin lesions by means of light microscopy, electron microscopy, and fluorescence microscopy.

Pediatric Dermatologist: A pediatric dermatologist is a dermatologist who has additional training and expertise in the evaluation and management of skin diseases which occur more commonly or exclusively in children. Examples include: all types of birthmarks, neonatal dermatology, genodermatoses, pediatric infections or inflammatory processes and skin diseases in children with complex medical conditions requiring coordinated multispecialty care.

Dermatologist specializing in Clinical and Laboratory Dermatological Immunology: A dermatologist who utilizes various specialized laboratory procedures to diagnose disorders characterized by defective responses of the body’s immune system. An immunodermatologist also may provide consultation in the management of these disorders and administer specialized forms of therapy for these diseases.


Is there a difference between a physician who is the medical director of a spa and a physician who performs aesthetic medical procedures in a spa that is not physician-owned?

Yes. The “Medical Director” designation has come to mean different things to different people. Correctly used, it describes a physician who does not practice medicine, but rather one who is responsible for overseeing medical practice within a clinical environment. Thus, the function of a Medical Director is limited to administrative responsibilities, such as reviewing, advertising and marketing materials for regulatory compliance.

When a medical practice offers ancillary spa services or a physician-owned spa offers aesthetic medical procedures, a physician can properly refer to himself or herself as a “Medical Director.” The physician generally wears two hats in these organizations-one as a practicing physician and another as an administrator.

Only a physician-owned spa can legitimately have a Medical Director. Unfortunately, the medical spa industry often uses the term “Medical Director” to lead consumers to believe that a non-physician owned spa is employing a physician to perform medical services. A non-physician owned spa cannot provide aesthetic medical procedures to the public nor can it legally employ a licensed physician. Thus, use of the term “Medical Director” by a non physician-owned spa to mislead the public to believe they employ a doctor who performs aesthetic medical services would be a fraudulent business practice.

Physicians may operate a private physician’s office within a non-physician owned spa, however they must ensure that all advertising and marketing materials used by the spa properly disclose the physician’s relationship with the spa.

Many non-physician spa owners believe they can employ a physician to be their “Medical Director” and perform aesthetic medical procedures within their spa. This is incorrect. Any physician who accepts employment by a non-physician spa owner with the intent of performing aesthetic medical procedures as the spa’s medical director is subject to disciplinary action and increased liability.

Consumers should do a little homework before blindly accepting services from a spa advertising aesthetic medical procedures by a “Medical Director.”

(1)Medesthetics febr 2007 page 20)
Legal Issues by Scott Blair, JD. MIM .)


What is longevity of life without health? Adults today are looking not only to extend their lives, but to enjoy their extra years. A simplified message for older adults is to follow the ten keys to healthy aging:

  • Prevent bone loss and muscle weakness
  • Control blood pressure
  • Increase physical activity
  • Regulate blood sugar
  • Stop smoking
  • Maintain social contact
  • Participate in annual skin screening for cancer
  • Get regular immunizations
  • Lower cholesterol and combat depression

These strategies can help people take charge of their health and delay or prevent disease and injury as well as speed recovery time. People should seek out places that provide access to resources for social contact, physical activity, transportation and other needs. Making the golden years more golden requires adults to apply some basic keys that will provide enjoyment of those extra years. Dr. Ly provides free skin screening in Maui Hawaii at various fairs and cancer Awareness events. Dr. Ly also provides annual cancer skin screenings at her Dermatology clinic at 89 Hookele st. #101 Kahului, Hawaii by appointment at 808-877-6526 or

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