University of Virginia Plastic Surgery
1300 Jefferson Park Avenue 4th Floor
Charlottesville, VA 22908
Phone: (434) 924-1234
Location Hours: Monday–Friday | 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

How Do You Choose a Plastic Surgeon?

Dark-haired young woman in a white sweater looking at her laptop screen

When it comes to getting the best results for your aesthetic goals, choosing the right procedure is only part of the story. Choosing the best plastic surgeon, whether here in Charlottesville, VA, or elsewhere, is potentially more important, as the right surgeon will work with you to develop a surgical plan that’s completely tailored to your needs. However, filtering through your options can be a daunting task. With so many choices, how can you be sure you’re selecting the best? Our checklist can help.

Board Certification

It’s a phrase you see a lot when searching for a doctor. But what does “board certification” actually mean? When used to describe a plastic surgeon, board certified means he or she has earned a certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery, an independent, not-for-profit organization. The Board awards certification to surgeons who have successfully passed a series of exams, both oral and written, that test their knowledge of techniques and safety in plastic surgery. Board certification is a completely voluntary process, which means that board-certified plastic surgeons have chosen to go above and beyond to demonstrate their dedication to providing exceptional patient care.


In the United States, any licensed physician is legally allowed to perform plastic surgery, which makes it very important to thoroughly research your doctor’s credentials. Be sure you choose a trained plastic surgeon rather than another type of doctor who merely offers aesthetic procedures. In most cases, you can determine a doctor’s specialty by checking his or her board certification. This information should also be available on a physician’s CV—the doctor should have completed a residency, internship, or fellowship in plastic surgery. By double-checking on the specialization, you can evaluate the doctor’s strengths and take comfort in choosing a qualified provider.

Before & After Photos

Most plastic surgeons have before-and-after photos of real patients available on their websites. Think of this gallery as your surgeon’s artistic portfolio. It should present a diverse array of cases to help you understand the full scope their surgical skill. Use a critical eye when browsing these photos. Do you agree with the surgeon’s aesthetic vision? Does the doctor’s approach align with your goals? It can be especially helpful to look at cases with “before” photos that resemble you. This can help you further visualize what’s possible for you, even if it’s not the exact outcome you’re envisioning. If no photos are available online, you should be able to look at photos in the office during your initial consultation.

Patient Reviews

“Crowdsourced” information about your potential surgeon can be a great way to get unfiltered reports of what to expect. Many websites, such as RealSelf and Yelp, offer platforms for patients to share their experiences. Reviews can help paint a more complete picture of a practice and demystify the cosmetic procedure process, including what you can expect during your first visit and follow-up appointments. Hearing from other patients is an easy way to help put your mind at ease when you’re deciding whom to select. These opinions can also allay your concerns about potentially making the wrong decision.

It’s important to build a strong relationship with your surgeon based on trust and honest, open communication. In addition to evaluating your doctor’s credentials, pay attention to your gut. During your consultation, does your surgeon facilitate a candid, open discussion about your goals? Do you feel heard, understood, and respected? Does the practice’s staff seem organized and friendly? These attributes can go a long way in making your aesthetic vision a reality.

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