The email began, “Congratulations are in order. Your practice has been selected to be featured in Americastopbreastsurgeons.com.” Wow! Really? At last, my incredible talents have been properly recognized. With fingers trembling in gratitude, I click to go to the site and claim my recognition. But wait…….what’s this? Even though it claims to be some type of award or distinction, I have to pay for a membership. Membership? Since when do you have to pay for receiving an honor? Membership is what you do when you join a club. “Membership” among America’s Top Breast Surgeons is $500 for one year, $1000 for life, and $2000 for “#1 Top Spot membership. If I want my practice listed, it is $995 for 6 months, $1895 for one year, $2895 for lifetime membership, and a mind-boggling $3895 for the #1 Top Spot. My mind reels with questions. Is this for real? How did I come to the attention of those who select ATBS’s? Who nominated me? How many doctors in my area received similar emails? Did my partner receive an invitation? Do I act quickly if I want #1 Top Spot ranking?
I have seen this before. All sorts of agencies will declare that you are the best surgeon, top doctor, or are part of some elite medical fraternity. ATBS sounds suspiciously like one of those bogus awards designed for surgeons who are desperate enough, or disingenuous enough to promote themselves by any means, and are willing to pay for this. According to the website, only ten doctors in each state will qualify for this singular distinction. Cynical me, I did the math. If all subscribe for just the one year membership, that’s ten doctors times fifty states times $500, or $250,000/year for the website owner. Not bad for posting information on a website, which is relatively inexpensive to do. If you want plaques and other doodads to proclaim your status to your patients, that’s extra. If one doctor pays for #1 Top Spot in each state, and you know someone will, that’s another $75,000 in the kitty. It you include practice membership, the potential windfall to whoever owns ATBS’s can climb into the millions.
Plastic surgery is a relatively small specialty. There are only a few surgeons who are widely acknowledged as unusually accomplished in the area of breast surgery. They present at professional meetings, publish papers on breast surgery in peer-reviewed journals, and most teach in residency programs for plastic surgery. I am familiar with many, if not most, of them, at least by name. I checked the website for America’s Top Breast Surgeon and did not see a single recognizable name among the featured surgeons. All of them may, indeed, be excellent breast surgeons, but that is not why they are on there. They are on there because they paid for membership. Period.
The owner of Top 10 Media LLC, which is behind America’s Top Breast Surgeons, is Daniel Singh. Good luck finding out much about the mysterious Mr. Singh online. I tried and my search skills were not up to the task of pulling up anything on him. So, I tried replying to the email and, lo and behold, he answered. I repeatedly asked two simple questions: how was I nominated and how many surgeons in my area received similar emails offering to promote them as Top Breast Surgeons. Neither question was answered, despite multiple attempts. Below is my final email to Mr. Singh:
Forgive me for being blunt. Business models such as yours succeed by playing on the ego and profit motives of the physicians who avail themselves of your services. Perhaps some are naive however I suspect that many are cynical enough, or in need of such affirmation enough to accept your offer. I suspect that the nomination process has little to do with merit and everything to do with running down the list of board certified surgeons in my specialty. The more doctors you offer your "award" to, the better your odds that some will likely take the bait and accept. A true award would not require me to pay for the privilege. I would like an answer to two simple questions: who nominated me and what other surgeons in my area received your invitation? These should not be difficult to answer if your award is truly what you say.
If you can answer these two questions and confirm that I can accept this award and market it as I wish, without subscribing to your various "membership" programs, then I may reconsider.
Otherwise, no, I do not want to participate in a misleading, disingenuous marketing ploy disguised as an "honor" or "award".
I have never received an answer so I guess I will never join the ranks of America’s Top Breast Surgeons. And I thought I was pretty good too………………………….