When you are researching your surgeon, you will find that they will have a multitude of letters after their name. They may have any of the following, FRACS, RACS, ACCS, ASPS, ASAPS, ISAPS, but what do they all mean?
It is important to understand that within Australia and New Zealand there are no legal requirements for a doctor wishing to perform surgical procedures and to have undergone any specific training in surgery. In Australia, there is only one medical college which provides government accredited specialist training and qualifications for doctors wishing to become surgeons.
This institution is the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). A surgeon trained by RACS will have the initials FRACS after their name, meaning they are a “Fellow” of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS). It is important to note that to ensure your surgeon has undergone accredited training as a surgeon they must be able to nominate FRACS after their name.
In addition, not any surgeon can advertise themselves as a plastic surgeon. A “Specialist Plastic Surgeon” is a Commonwealth Government accredited plastic surgeon who has been trained by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and who has undergone additional specialist training in plastic surgery. They will display the initials FRACS (Plastic) after their name and they will be a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
In Australia, the national Medical Board states that the “Specialist Plastic Surgeon” title can only be used by RACS approved specialist surgeons. These surgeons undergo extensive training and it is because of this we recommend that you only consult with a fully qualified plastic surgeon. Just to make it more difficult to understand, a “Specialist Facial Plastic Surgeon” specialises in cosmetic and / or reconstructive surgery of the head and neck only. They commonly perform procedures relating to the eyes, ears, nose, neck, face, chin and skin. Just like a plastic surgeon, a facial plastic surgeon in Australia is a fully qualified Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS). They may also be members of the Australasian Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery (AAFPS). They will have completed formal training in plastics, ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) or even general surgery, before going on to do further training allowing them to specialise in surgery of the face.
Doctors who refer to themselves as “Cosmetic Surgeons” may not have received their training from the Australasian College of Surgeons. They will most likely be members (“Fellows”) of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgeons (ACCS) and will display the initials FACCS after their name. The ACCS is not an accredited college, but they are and have been for some time in the process of trying to obtain certification. If your surgeon has overseas qualifications (and you are comfortable with that), do your research and find out if they are surgeon qualifications. Remember MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) doesn’t mean your doctor has been trained in surgery.