What is the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery?

As a nurse I probably should know the answer, yet I cannot figure out what is the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.  Who can be a member?  Are they board certified doctors?  I am looking for a breast surgeon for augmentation and ran across this confusion.

Doctor Answers (10)

This is a great question

+7

The American Board of Specialties (ABMS) only recognizes a certain group of specialities. Plastic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery ( ABMS certified). ENT doctors who are trained to do cosmetic surgery of the head and neck are certified by their own group. Then there are other doctors who want to say that they are certified by a group that recognizes their ability to do cosmetic surgery - even though they may never have completed recognized training is Plastic Surgery . That group of physicians set up the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. This is not recognized by the ABMS. Anyone who says they have done cosmetic training (?) can sit for their board.

I personally would not vouch for anyone certified by this board as to their training as it is not recognized by the ABMS.

Buyer Beware.


New York Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Here are the facts as I see them.

+6

Here are the facts as I see them. I have tried to be as accurate as possible to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation. If there are any additional facts that I have omitted please correct me.

What is the American Board of Plastic Surgery?

The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only sub-specialties board for cosmetic plastic surgery recognized by the American Medical Association. Since its recognition in 1941, this organization has regulated and certified surgeons for plastic and reconstructive surgery. Many physicians practicing plastic surgery are qualified and skilled surgeons; however, selecting a doctor who has been certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery ensures that your surgeon has undergone extensive specialized training and successfully passed rigorous examinations. It is required that every surgeon complete a minimum of six years of general surgery training and at least two or three years of specialized training in cosmetic plastic & reconstructive surgery. Once a surgeon has completed their training, he or she is then able to take a written exam followed by an intense analysis of his or her work administered by the members of the board. Analysis includes skill level, talent and ethics. Only after a doctor has been approved by the board can a surgeon call him or herself a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon.

What is the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery?

The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery was founded as a corporation in 1982 as an independent organization to bring together surgeons performing cosmetic procedures. Many Board Certified Cosmetic Surgeons are qualified and skilled plastic surgeons; however, unlike the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a physician of any surgical specialty can complete a one-on-one observational training program, workshop, seminar or lecture to become eligible for board certification with this organization. A two day written and oral exam is then taken to become recognized as Board Certified Cosmetic Surgeon.

Jeffrey Zwiren, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Confusion is what they are banking on.

+4

Jessica,

They are creating confusion as a smoke screen masking the true meaning and definition of "board certification." The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery is a body that is NOT recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, ABMS, the only true certifying body in the United States. It's that simple.

Kenneth R. Francis, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

AACS is a shortcut!

+4

Excellent question!

To become board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a plastic surgeon must first complete intensive training in an accredited training program. Thereafter, the surgeon must pass rigorous written and oral examinations given by the board. The American Board of Plastic Surgery is one of only 24 accredited specialty boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and is the only board recognized by the ABMS to certify a surgeon in plastic surgery. There are a number of other boarding organizations that include "facial", "aesthetic" or "cosmetic" in the title. These are not recognized by the ABMS and do not have the same training requirements. To verify a physician's board status, contact the American Board of Plastic Surgery at (215) 587-9322. You may also contact the American Board of Medical Specialties at 1(800) 776-2378 or http://www.ABMS.org

The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS) is not recognized by the ABMS and requires no prerequisite training in plastic surgery. According to the ABCS website, this is superior to any other boards for cosmetic surgery as it is the only board certifying doctors in cosmetic surgery. In truth, most of the physicians so "certified" are oral surgeons, dentists, OB/Gyn, dermatologists, family practice or internists.

The eligibility requirements differ significantly:

For both, one must hold a valid license to practice medicine and preform surgery in an accredited facility. Both have written and oral examinations, although those of the American Board of Plastic Surgery are more intensive. The major difference is the prerequisite training as summarized:

To be eligible for American Board of Plastic Surgery certification on must complete a accredited plastic surgery residency program. This consists of very specific requirements:

  • 3-5 years of General Surgery training in an accredited program.
  • 2-3 years of Plastic Surgery fellowship training in an accredited program.
  • Accredited programs have very tightly regulated training protocols which are closely monitored and re-evaluated frequently.

To be eligible for ABCS certification one must complete a "cosmetic fellowship" approved by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS). The AACS is closely tied to the ABCS and is similarly vague in its requirements.

  • At least 1-2 years of General Surgery training (doesn't need to be accredited).
  • Be certified in general surgery, dermatology, ophthalmology, oral surgery, OB/GYN, or plastic surgery by any certifying board deemed adequate by the AACS.
  • Participate in at least 300 cases

Very few, if any plastic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. No non-plastic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons.

York Jay Yates, MD
Salt Lake City Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Look for certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery

+4

Cosmetic surgery is a branch plastic surgery and has been taught in residency programs for decades, culminating in certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Diplomates of the board particpate in many professional and eduactional local and national organizations, the largest of which are the American Society of Plastic Surgery and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Both publish reviewed journals, organize national educational meetings, and information is available to you on their respective web sites.

With the broad interest in cosmetic surgery today other professional organizations have been developed by physicians of other medical specialties who have an interest in cosmetic plastic surgery. The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery is one such organization. Their members may be board certified by many different specialty boards, and they also hold national educational meetings to meet the needs of their members.

There are many fine surgeons in the field of plastic surgery who are members of these various groups, however your best assurance of recognition and competence in cosmetic plastic surgery is confirming a surgeon has completed rigorous training in general surgery and plastic surgery and has completed the specialty certification offered by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

When choosing a surgeon, it is wise to ask if he or she has privileges in the local hospital to perform the same procedure.

Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

Cosmetic Surgeon Vs. Plastic Surgeon

+3

This is a great question.

Physicians of many specialties are members of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. Membership does not require a surgical residency in plastic surgery, or any formal surgical training whatsoever.

The reason family practice physicians, internists and even pediatricians are turning to "cosmetic surgery" is greed. This practice is legal, but unsafe, and in my opinion, unethical. It also creates confusion for consumers. Many people know to look for a board certified physician but they do not realize that there is a SIGNIFICANT difference between being a board certified plastic surgeon and a board certified cosmetic surgeon.

There is only ONE organization that is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties which certifies cosmetic surgeons: The American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Over the last several years there has been a proliferation of “Boards” with titles that include words such as “Plastic” and “Cosmetic” in them. Aside from The American Board of Plastic Surgery, NONE of these “Boards” are recognized by The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Visit the ABMS website to see which specialties have ABMS recognition.

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

It is confusing - by design!

+3

As the other doctors have said so well, the American Board of Medical Specialties does not recognize the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. This is primarily a group of physicians who have not been trained and Board Certifed as Plastic Surgeons. In order to get a foothold in this competitive marketplace, the non-plastic surgeons have established various "look alike" Academies and Boards in order to confuse the public into thinking that they are equal to real plastic surgeons. Amazingly enough, some of their members have taken this to another level of deceit by even claiming that they are BETTER than plastic surgeons because cosmetic surgery is all that they do.

Buyer beware - a breast augmentation should ONLY be done by a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

There's only one recognized board for plastic surgeons

+2

Plastic surgery procedures have some attraction for non-plastic surgeons (individuals who are not trained as plastic surgeons and who are not board eligible to be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, including physicians like gynecologists, internal medicine doctors, etc.)

This attraction has created pressure for the formation of bodies to "certify" physicians looking for credibility.

There is only one recognized board for plastic surgeons - that is the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Be sure your surgeon is a member.

I hope this helps.

Steven H. Williams, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

What "board-certified" actually means

+1

The question you ask is probably answered better by asking, what does board certified actually mean?

In the United States, there is a non-profit organization called the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The ABMS is composed of members from 14 medical specialty boards. Most hospitals require that physicians either be Board Certified by one of the member boards of the ABMS, or be board-eligible in order to gain credentials at the hospital.

Board-eligible applies to physicians who recently completed training and are waiting for testing or waiting periods set forth by the boards to obtain certification. To practice medicine and obtain a state medical license though, a physician does not have to be board certified. Each individual board has a set of criteria that has to be met to receive certification, and physicians have to undergo testing every 10 years to maintain their certification.The re-certification process is relatively new and some older physicians are grandfathered in to not have to renew certification.

While some of the other physicians indicated that the American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only board to certify plastic and cosmetic surgeons, this is not completely accurate. The American Board of Otolaryngology also accredits physicians to perform cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the face and neck. According to the ABMS website:

  • Under the description of the American Board of Plastic Surgery: "A Plastic Surgeon deals with the repair, reconstruction or replacement of physical defects of form or function involving the skin, musculoskeletal system, craniomaxillofacial structures, hand, extremities, breast and trunk and external genitalia or cosmetic enhancement of these areas of the body. Cosmetic surgery is an essential component of plastic surgery."
  • Under the description of the American Board of Otolaryngology special mention is made "Head and neck oncology, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery and the treatment of disorders of hearing and voice are fundamental areas of expertise."

The American Board of Otolaryngology and the American Board of Plastic Surgery both recognize specialization in Plastic Surgery within the Head and Neck.

While not specifically mentioned by their board, surgeons certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology receive training in cosmetic and functional surgery of the eye and area around the eyes.

Now, there are many other organizations designate themselves as boards and conferring board certification. Depending on state medical regulations, physicians may or may not be able to advertise that they are board certified by these organizations. The accrediting process for these organzations can vary from simply paying a fee to testing comparable to the ABMS recognized boards.

ABMS boards generally require training in an appropriate residency and upon completion, a written exam followed by an oral exam, and in the case of surgical specialties, some demonstration of operative competence. There are reputable boards outside of the ABMS and to determine their criteria for conference of certification, visit the board's website. You can determine is a physician is certified by an ABMS board by visiting www.abms.org.

D.J. Verret, MD
Dallas Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

AACS - complicated answer

+1

It would be great if there were a simple answer. I am sure there is a website outlining the criteria for membership in the Academy, but there are a great many practitioners in the world of cosmetic surgery now and they come from a variety of backgrounds.

For a long time, the accepted standard was board certification from a board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties; the member board here is the American Board of Plastic Surgery (the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is not recognized by ABMS).

Most ABPS-certified plastic surgeons are members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and those specializing in cosmetic surgery may also be in the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.