Board Certified


There has been a big push in the last few years to educate patients on asking if their plastic surgeon is board certified. There are many doctors who practice plastic surgery yet are not board certified in plastic surgery. Most patients don’t understand what it means to be board certified. Medical education in the US starts with medical school. There are two types of medical schools. There is the allopathic school which produces MDs and the osteopathic schools which produce DOs.There are differences between the two schools but both degrees allow for the graduate to practice medicine in the US. After medical school the newly minted doctor starts his or her residency. There are many different types of residency like pediatrics, internal medicine, general surgery, plastic surgery, etc. The different residencies offer different training focused on their specialty. The residency can last from 3-9 years depending on the field chosen. After the completion of residency, the doctor may choose to do a fellowship to focus on a specific part of their field or they may just start practice.
The board certification process begins after finishing residency. For surgical specialties there are two tests to become board certified. The first is a written test that must be passed to move to the next step. The second step is the oral exam.During this test the candidate is asked questions by certified examiners and must demonstrate adequate knowledge. If they pass that portion they will become board certified.
Each specialty has different aspects to the oral exam. Plastic surgery has the most rigorous board certification of any specialty. In plastic surgery we are required to collect and report all of our cases during our first year of practice. This includes pre-op and post-op pictures, outcomes, complications, and billing. Each category is scrutinized by the board to look for poor medical care and unethical practices. If the cases are approved, 5 of them are selected to be presented by us at the oral boards. During that presentation the examiners ask about the care given. If they find there was substandard or unethical care, the candidate will fail.
So as you can see the process to become board certified is a long and trying process. The specialty you become certified in is based on your training. However, your medical license issued by the state does not specify which specialty you can practice.Instead it merely states that you are licensed to practice surgery and medicine. This means that even if you trained in dermatology, you can practice plastic surgery. This leads to all sorts of confusion for the patient. Unless the patient specifically asks what board the doctor is certified by he/she may never know their doctor was not trained in plastic surgery. Always ask if your plastic surgeon is board certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery. Or go to and click “Is your surgeon certified”.
Article by
Atlantic City Plastic Surgeon