So, you’ve decided to get some surgical work done on your body and have decided to come to Florida for your lift, tuck or suck-and-replace. Before you go under the knife, you should research the surgeon and the place the surgery will take place.
We’re not talking just online reviews, which can be faked or manipulated. Some surgery centers try to insert restrictions on online reviews before they settle disputes over refunds. And while Googling news stories helps, not every red flag makes the media.
Obvious as this is, it can’t be stated enough — whether plastic surgery or cosmetic surgery, whether in a hospital or a strip mall, it’s surgery. Your body’s getting cut open. There’s an inherent danger of things going wrong. What should be a precision, detailed procedure can kill you.
If at any point, you don’t feel your total physical and psychological comfort is paramount to the surgeon or staff, walk away.
Here’s what to know:
Is your doctor trained to do this? Or even a doctor?
Florida is where a Palm Beach teenager earned a prison sentence by playing doctor. What makes you think someone who isn’t a medical doctor might do a Brazilian butt lift or other kind of liposuction surgery (and, maybe, help his also-unlicensed wife perform cosmetic surgery)?
Or, the anesthesiologist on your surgery might be an ob/gyn with inadequate training in anesthesiology, as the state says was the case with Dr. Millicent Muir in the death of Jaynisha Williams at The Best U Now.
Don’t hesitate to check out your doctor.
As with most states, the most basic way to check a license is via license verification on the Florida Department of Health website. Just put in the doctor’s name and hit search. Your doctor should come up with the license number, city and license status.
Don’t stop there. Clicking on the license number will bring up information such as when the license was issued, when it expires and if any disciplinary action is in progress. There’s a tab for Discipline/Admin Action if you want to check the doctor’s career reprimands, fines, any probation or suspensions served.
Hitting the “Practitioner Profile” tab will bring up a number of other tabs, as well as list where the doctor has staff privileges. You’ll want to check that if you’re going to an office surgery center.
Among the other tabs are Education & Training and Specialty Certification. The former should show the schools attended and what was studied. The latter should tell you whether or not the doctor is board certified.
For example, if you looked up New Life Plastic Surgery’s Dr. Oliver Simmons, you’d see he’s been licensed in Florida since 2018. Also on that page, an emergency restriction order hit his license on July 29, 2022. Follow that to the Discipline tab and you’d see that an administrative complaint was filed later. You could read the order and the complaint for the state’s version of a Brazilian butt lift death (the state Board of Medicine will be looking at the settlement agreement Simmons and the Department of Health on Simmons’ punishment for that death on Feb. 3).
Click on the Education tab and the only information Simmons provided was he did four years at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. He lists no post graduate training, no staff privileges at a local hospital and no specialty certifications.
You can do the same for any office surgery center, even centers that are closed, such as West Miami-Dade’s Jolie Plastic Surgery or Plantation’s The Best U Now. Each closed in 2022 soon after state administrative complaints were filed. Centers that are open should have a “Supervising Practitioners” tab. Click on that to find the staff.
How familiar are they with the court system?
Go to the Clerk of the Court website of the county where the surgeon or surgery center cuts flesh. You should be able to find and read the civil suits filed against the doctor or center as well as see the lawsuit’s result.
Anybody can be sued. But when a surgery center or doctor gets hit with or settles several lawsuits over similar issues, that can be smoke from a not-too-distant fire.
Checking ‘Board certified’ and other claims
Here’s the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery’s explanation of what being “board certified” means:
“Ultimately, board certification is a symbol that a doctor has undergone additional training in their area of specialty, proven a high level of expertise in that specialty, and are therefore better qualified to practice in that specialty compared to a non-certified doctor.”
Accurate though that is, the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery isn’t one of the board certifications recognized by the Florida Board of Medicine.
Florida recognizes the American Board of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery; American Board of Pain Medicine; American Association of Physician Specialists Inc./American Board of Physician Specialties; American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians; and the 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties, one of which is the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
A Florida doctor can advertise being certified by a non-recognized board. The Board of Medicine says that declaration must be hitched “in the same print size or volume” to the admission that “the specialty recognition identified herein has been received from a private organization not affiliated with or recognized by the Florida Board of Medicine.”
“Same print size” doesn’t mean same place.
Alexander Zuriarrain claims on his website’s splash page that he’s one of the country’s few quadruple board certified surgeons. Two of the boards named have asterisks. You have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to find that the asterisks’ indicate the boards aren’t recognized.
Miracle Mile Cosmetic Surgery Center’s website says Daisy Ayim is “triple board certified,” but doesn’t tell you only one of those boards is recognized by the Florida Board of Medicine.
The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) says its certification lasts 10 years and requires continuous participation. Certification gained before 1995 remains valid indefinitely.
But certification can be revoked. Just before the Florida Board of Medicine finished punishing Seduction Cosmetic Center’s John Sampson for a BBL patient’s death, the ABPS suspended Sampson’s certification last year. It remains suspended, although Sampson’s Florida Department of Health profile shows he’s still board certified.
This is why, even if a doctor’s Department of Health profile claims board certification, check that claim by going to the appropriate board’s website. For example, Miami Surgical Center’s designated physician Fernando Lora claims American Board of Surgery certification on his profile. Lora’s ABS certification expired July 1, 1990.
Don’t fall for misleading the websites and social media
Never forget that plastic surgery center websites and social media pages are just online billboards trying to get you to use a business. View them with a critical eye and verify each claim.
Zion Plastic Surgery’s website describes Dr. Pablo Baltodano as a “Board Elegible Plastic Surgeon.” Aside from the spelling, this just means he’s a plastic surgeon.
Coral Gables’ Seduction Cosmetic Center declares Alfred Sofer is “certified by both the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of General Surgery.” Sofer’s American Board of Surgery certification ran out July 1, 2009.
Ana Lidia Diaz-Cardenas says on her Facebook page that she’s a “CNA/Caregiver” who does post-operation care services. A “CNA” is a certified nursing assistant. A check of the Florida Department of Health license verification shows no such license for her.
The still-active Best U Now website referred to managing member Dorian Wilkerson as “co- founder, Dr. Dorian ‘Doctor Body’ Wilkerson, Rejuvenation Specialist and Cosmetic Analyst…” But “Doctor Body” doesn’t seem to be Doctor Anything Medical in Florida — online license verification checks of Florida and Georgia don’t show a Dorian Wilkerson a a licensed medical professional.