Is Your Plastic Surgeon Board Certified?

Kelly Gallego, MD, FACS
Article by
Yuba City Plastic Surgeon

The term “board certified” seems to get thrown around quite a bit these days. Patients are constantly encouraged to make certain that their surgeon is “board certified.” In addition, the surgeon must be “board certified” by the appropriate certifying board, not some lesser board. So what is the big deal anyway with board certification?
 

Board certification is a credentialing process where physicians voluntarily complete a list of requirements in order to be certified by a particular specialty board. Specialty boards require training at an approved program and the completion of an examination process. Each specialty does it a little differently. Some boards administer their exams during the residency and fellowship years, while others wait until after a doctor has been in practice. Some specialties require an oral exam, some do not.
 

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) recognizes 24 specialty boards that meet certain rigorous standards. For plastic surgery, the American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only recognized board. Other boards exist, but are not recognized as meeting the appropriate standards as determined by the ABMS. Currently there are more than 75 non-ABMS recognized boards. Examples of these include the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, and the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
 

In addition, some “cosmetic” surgeons who perform cosmetic procedures are board certified in an unrelated field such as head and neck surgery, ophthalmology or obstetrics and gynecology. Before a consultation for any cosmetic procedure, patients should always inquire as to whether the surgeon is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.


The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) requires the following in order to become board certified. First, a candidate must complete prerequisite training followed by requisite training at an approved plastic surgery training program. Next, candidates must pass a comprehensive written exam which is usually taken within the first year after training. Finally, candidates must pass an oral examination which evaluates a candidate’s knowledge base, judgment and ethical standards. Only after completing each of these steps are candidates considered board certified. The official term is a Diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and re-certification is mandated every ten years.


So what is the importance of board certification anyway? Board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery does not guarantee a good cosmetic result. It does not insure that your experience will be free of any complications. However, it does prove that a plastic surgeon has completed the required training in plastic surgery, and has passed a set of rigorous exams.

 

There are a number of ways to clarify the board certification status of your surgeon. The ABPS has a simple way for patients to clarify if their surgeon is board certified by entering a surgeon’s name, state, or zip code. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has a similar mechanism for obtaining board certification information. Lastly, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) only accepts board certified plastic surgeons for membership. Seeing their logo is a sign that not only is the surgeon an ASPS member, but also a board certified plastic surgeon. The ASPS has a surgeon locator page to make it easy for prospective patients to find board certified plastic surgeons in their area.


When it comes to your health, what could be more important than finding a plastic surgeon who has been appropriately trained, and who has proven their knowledge and ethics through a demanding examination process?