Be Smart About Looking Good

John LoMonaco, MD, FACS
Article by
Houston Plastic Surgeon

People seek plastic surgery for a variety of reasons: improved self-esteem, change in a perceived flaw, or to reverse the effects of aging, pregnancy, or massive weight loss. But regardless of the motivation, patients all share a desire for a safe and predictable result. While many things may affect your results, it's the experience, decision-making, and expertise of your surgeon that plays the biggest role in ensuring a favorable outcome.

Choosing a qualified surgeon may be the based on recommendations from friends, careful research, and personal compatibility. Choosing a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is an essential step to ensure the best training and credentials.

Keep It Simple

While this goal may seem simple, keep several things in mind. The laws in most states allow the practice of "medicine and surgery" with nothing more than a state license. In addition, laws governing the advertising of medical services are lax in many states, so it's a "buyer beware" world out there.

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is an organization that keeps track of data for all of the 24 approved medical specialty boards. Their mission of the ABMS is to provide assurance to the public that doctors certified by a Member Board have successfully completed an approved training program.  They also ensure that your doctor has undergone a thorough evaluation process that assures their ability to provide quality care in their specialty.

Beware of the Bogus Board.

But even determining if a surgeon is board-certified can be difficult. Aggressive marketing, plus the dramatic increase in media attention surrounding plastic surgery has resulted in some physicians being less than forthright with their credentials. There are organizations that incorporate the word "Board" in their name, and even issue certificates. Sometimes called "bogus boards," the requirements for becoming "certified" by these organizations may be quite lax. Board "certification" by some of these entities can be obtained in exchange for an application fee.

Such boards lack educational standards and have lax requirements. Many of them do not incorporate an examination process for their doctor members.  Hospitals, medical organizations, insurance companies, do not recognize non-ABMS boards.  Non-boarded doctors usually are not allowed to perform their procedures in a hospital and instead resort to office facilities.

Fortunately, with the advent of the internet, there are several quick and reliable ways to check your prospective surgeon's credentials. The ABMS (at ABMS.org) tracks and accredits all 24 specialty boards and updates the membership status of it's physicians. 

The One and Only...

Another organization open only to board-certified plastic surgeons is the American Society of Plastic Surgery (at plasticsurgery.org). This society promotes the advancement of plastic surgery and patient education. The Society is open only to board-certified plastic surgeons, requires continuing medical education for its members, and also upholds a set of ethical standards.

Plastic surgery should be a life changing experience for the better. As with any big decision, good preparation and careful planning go a long way to ensure the best possible results and the safest outcome. Choosing a surgeon certified by the ABPS is an easy way to "be smart about looking good."