ASPS – ASAPS Unification by Pamela Howard

A recent proposal is on the table calling for the “unification” of the American Society of Plastic Surgeon and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.  Those in favor cite “economic” reasons as well as the “creation” of a more “aesthetic” unification.  Must I be the one to point out it was the ASPS who decided to remove the “R” over 10 years ago?  It seems we have an organization with an ongoing identity crisis.

I vividly recall hearing about the name change from the American Society of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeons to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons when I was first employed into this industry. Having been employed into a Reconstructive sector of my husband’s practice, I remember my reaction to the news as a negative one.  “Simplification” was the answer, even my husband understood both sides of that argument.  This blonde-brain didn’t.  I recognized instantly the narrow road it would create for an industry built on both the reconstructive and the cosmetic.  So the “Ann Coulter” of the Plastic Surgery Industry here (that would be me) is happy to say “I told you so” as I explain why this was such a bad idea and why the unification proposal doesn’t help our position in the real world of Plastic Surgery.

First of all, removing the “R” was a big slap to this industry.  It clearly opened the door for the “rogues” to step in and claim the “cosmetic specialty” for themselves as they refer to plastic surgeons, such has my husband, as “general plastic surgeons” and they plaster all over their websites phrases such as “plastic surgeons are only trained in wound care and reconstructive surgery.”   Your “simplification” ideas of the past have not worked out for the reputation of your very members.  To simplify this paragraph for those of you who are merely scanning; Plastic surgeons are now considered “general plastic surgeons” which is the old “reconstructive surgeon.”  Anything “cosmetic” got reassigned to those physicians (I do not refer to them as “surgeons” for the obvious reasons) who have gone rogue.  Also, marketing and branding is more complicated by the capitulation in the “core” physician agreement.

Now more than ever this Industry is faced with a “so easy a cave man can do it” mentality created by the cosmetic rogues.  Real Board Certified Plastic Surgeons are faced with the daunting challenge of marketing themselves against these rogues stressing the importance of “board certification.”  This is where I stepped in with my a few years back.  We all know that anyone can claim to be “board certified,” but the general public doesn’t understand that statement can be deceptive.  We do, the ASPS does, the ASAPS does, but where are all of the financial efforts focused?  Medicare?  We also know that the bread-and-butter of this industry is in cosmetic cases and that Congress could care less about the reimbursement of a cleft lip repair or BCC removal.  With ideas such as the removal of the “R” and now a unification proposal on the table, I cannot help but think the ASPS is in some sort of bubble and has no clue about this industry.  Maybe some of you cats would like to work with me for a day in Birmingham, Alabama.   I dare you.

Don’t get me wrong, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement is very important to any physician. I have direct experience in filing these claims.  I also know, the reputation of my husband’s industry is extremely important to putting food on my table.  Our news is bombarded with “plastic surgery gone wrong” stories that often fail to mention, or merely stress, the importance of finding a “real” board certified plastic surgeon, and I wonder where is the ASPS?  Ok, so they issue a press release, or they may manage to get some news time, but why does it appear they are focusing their efforts more on Washington than the integrity of this industry with the general public?  You want more respect with Washington?  Here’s a novel idea:  start with the respect of this industry with the general public.  Better yet, restore the “R” and leave the ASAPS alone.  The “American Society of Plastic & Aesthetic Surgery” would only be more confusing to the public we market to.

I have more respect for the ASAPS because they were the first to respond to my efforts.  I knew I got their attention.  This plastic-surgeon’s-wife-from-Alabama made waves with Plastic Surgeons world-wide.  The ASAPS took notice and recognized the void I attempted to fill.  They were the first to step-up to the plate with social media and help tackle this growing problem with “the rogues.”

So, who put this proposal on the table?  The ASPS?  Why would it benefit the ASAPS to unite with another organization with a history of identity confusion?  I have heard a few arguments for both sides.  The ones citing economic reasons I must disagree with first.  The ASPS divided plastic surgeons in a pathetic attempt to unify the specialty during a time when division was already rampid.  They folded, caved in, and changed their name, and obviously opened a door for the cosmetic rogues to step in and create “white coat confusion.”  The reason being we never trademarked our “Plastic Surgery” moniker.  Has anyone seen a marketing effort by a Real Plastic Surgeon that touts their “core” physician status?  Then, we have the core curriculum ambiguity which created even more marketing confusion.  So I ask you “economic reason” supporters, why seek to save a little money when the reputation of the industry in which you thrive is at stake?  If either group is having problems maintaining membership or meeting attendance, they should look within rather than trade on false assumptions.


About The Plastic Truth

Plastic Surgery Practice Manager, Founder of, kidney donor, website administrator, all things plastic surgery blogger, and non-profit executive administrator. Google
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