Plastic Surgeon or Cosmetic Surgeon? Making sure you have the right surgeon performing your operation.


The issue of whether properly trained doctors are performing cosmetic operations is back under the spotlight since the recent death of Jean Huang. Ms Huang died at the Sydney Medi Beauty Clinic during a breast procedure by an overseas national without any Australian medical qualifications.


Is there a difference between a Plastic Surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon in Australia? Within the general public and even those who work within the health industries, many do not know the important differences between cosmetic and Plastic Surgeons.

Intuitively it makes sense that one would seek out a cosmetic surgeon to perform an operation with a purely cosmetic or aesthetic focus. However, the term cosmetic surgeon is not regulated and does not represent a recognised Specialist qualification.


The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is responsible for a National Registration and Accreditation Scheme across Australia to ensure only those suitably trained and qualified are registered as Surgeons. The Australian Medical Council (AMC) also aims to uphold training and education standards in order to protect the health of the Australian community. Neither the AMC nor AHPRA recognise the term cosmetic surgeon. This means that the public has no guarantee of training and qualifications standards when they allow someone calling themselves a cosmetic surgeon to operate on them. In September this year, the Sunday Telegraph reported that medical graduates were calling themselves cosmetic surgeons after a half day course with breast enhancements and anti-wrinkle injections.


This is in contrast to the training requirements within Plastic Surgery. In order to call yourself a Plastic Surgeon, you must have completed 8-12 years of surgical training in addition to your basic medical degree and be accepted as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS). All surgeons must have FRACS after their name to be registered with AHPRA and the AMC and to be recognised by Medicare Australia.

The letters FRACS represents training to Australian standards and thereby offers some reassurance of surgical safety for patients. While not all of Plastic Surgery training is cosmetically focused, it involves years of working through difficult reconstructive problems, all of which have an aesthetic component. This facilitates the high level of knowledge, skill, and judgement necessary to perform primarily reconstructive and purely cosmetic operations.


So what should you look for when choosing your surgeon? FRACS (Plas) after their name is a vital start. Memberships with the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) or the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) also indicate that your surgeon is a fully qualified Specialist Plastic Surgeon.


When choosing your surgeon check they have current registration on the AHPRA website to ensure you are in the best-trained hands possible.

If you have any questions you would like Dr Avery to answer, please email them to with intouch as the subject line.

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