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Doctors

A recent story about a man who allegedly pretended to be a plastic surgeon and botched operations has many people wondering how they would know who is a real doctor and who is not. CBS This Morning Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explains how patients can determine whether their physician has real credentials.

Reinaldo Silvestre was accused of posing as a plastic surgeon for at least a year, botching at least three operations. Silvestre is not only accused of practicing medicine without a license, but of disfiguring patients. Bodybuilder Alexander Baez wanted bigger pectoral muscles, but got female breast implants instead.

The sort of thing is highly unlikely to happen to most familiar with the American medical system. Most of Silvestre's clients were immigrants who did not find a doctor operating outside of a medical building and negotiating a price for the surgery unusual. For most people, these conditions would set off a red flag.

But the case does make it clear that seeing diplomas on the wall and hearing about a doctor through word-of-mouth may not be enough. Here are some ways to confirm your doctor is who he says he is:

    Check with the state licensing board to see if the physician has a license and whether he has been disciplined.
  • Check to see if he is affiliated with a hospital
  • Ask the doctor for names of other people on whom he has performed surgery and ask those people about their experience.

In addition, you can check with the Public Citizen Health Research Group, which keeps a list of over 16,000 questionable doctors. Local libraries often have the list, or you can contact the group in Washington, D.C.

You can also get some indication of whether your doctor is good in his field. Doctors can get extra training in their specialty and be certified by the appropriate medical specialty board . Lists of so-called "board certified" doctors can be found in local libraries, on the Internet and from the specialty boards themselves. You can also find out if the doctor does this sort of surgery all the time. In general, the more experience they have, the better they are at it. So ask how many operations he's done, how often in the last year.

Reported By Dr. Emily Senay