A full 82% of the women MDs who appeared in Newsweek magazine’s “America’s best plastic surgeons 2021,” aren’t on the lists for 2022, suggesting possible flaws in the survey’s methodology.
A female plastic surgeon from Atlanta, Georgia was voted America’s 7th best breast augmentation surgeon in 2021.
This year she appears nowhere among the list’s 150 positions (but remains a Castle Connolly Top Doctor).
A female plastic surgeon from Maryland was voted America’s 13th best breast augmentation surgeon in 2021.
This year she appears on none of the five lists, despite also having been rated the nation’s 25th best liposuction surgeon and its 26th best facial plastic surgeon 12 months ago.
Both surgeons are still in practice and a review of social media, state medical board records, and news reports over the last year reveals nothing that rationalizes the ranking discrepancies.
In all, 41 of the 50 women (82%) who were voted among America’s best plastic surgeons in 2021 don’t appear on lists of the same in 2022.
“Sample size and margin of error have an inverse relationship. “As the sample size increases, the margin of error decreases.”Statistics For Dummies, 2nd Edition, Wiley (2011)
Information we reviewed suggests not that women are being singled out, but that they serve as a microcosm in which the apparent flaws of the survey become obvious.
It suggests possible problems with the survey’s methodology and points specifically to the likelihood of a small number of unique voters participating in the rating surveys.
The total number of different individuals who voted in this and last year’s surgeon survey is unclear from the documentation that Newsweek publishes alongside its survey results.
In 2021, Newsweek shared that it had invited “almost 3,000 medical experts” to participate in its survey, that it collected “more than 5,000 votes,” and that surveyees were “asked to name at least 5 and up to 15 of the best plastic surgeons for each of the four procedures.”
On this and other information, Surgical Times deduced that: “If each respondent named the maximum-allowable 15 surgeons per category, 5,000 votes are reached after fewer than 85 people take the survey.” If each were to cast the minimum-required 5 votes for surgeons per procedure, 5,000 votes is reached after 250 surveys are taken.
This, if accurate, would render the survey results less reliable and more open to even accidental “manipulation”.
Surgical Times reached out to Newsweek for comment.
2021: 50 of the 387 plastic surgeons ranked as the nation’s best by peers were women: 13%.
2022: 35 of the 349 plastic surgeons rated the nation’s best by peers are women: 10%.
2021: 83 of the 650 total positions across all lists are filled by women: 12.7%.
2022: 49 of the 700 total positions across all lists are filled by women: 7%.
Top of mind is top of list
Information also points to certain public appearances being a factor that may influence final rankings, or whether a surgeon even appears among “America’s best” at all.
This year, a plastic surgeon who presented at a conference and had her work with a patient featured in a new promotional series tops 4 of the 5 Newsweek lists as the best female plastic surgeon.
But last year, this same surgeon, though in practice, was not on any list.
Membership in one plastic surgery society—whose potential voters conservatively number in the hundreds—also appears to boost the ranking of some plastic surgeons.
Foul play need not even be present.
Newsweek says it conducts the surveys and publishes the ranking lists as part of its “continuing commitment” to helping readers “make informed medical choices,” and that it hopes readers find its rankings useful in “making [their] own healthcare decisions.”
But if the lists, which appear so prominently in Google search results, are based on poorly conducted surveys, patients may be disserviced in their search for a suitable plastic surgeon.