While many of us on Real Self frequently cite the importance of being sure your surgeon is properly board certified, indeed certified SPECIFICALLY by The American Board of Plastic Surgery, many people remain confused about what exactly what this means and why it is so critical to their safety and satisfaction.
Here is what The American Board of Plastic Surgery does, how they do it, and why it is so important to anyone considering a plastic surgery procedure.
The Board's website says:
The Mission Statement of The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. is to promote safe, ethical, efficacious plastic surgery to the public by maintaining high standards for the education, examination, certification and maintenance of certification of plastic surgeons as specialists and subspecialists.
The American Board of Plastic Surgery Certification is the ONLY way to be certain your surgeon is properly trained!
The last three words of the above mission statement are critical... to say we are specialists and subspecialists means we have completed supervised SPECIFIC training in plastic surgery. Read on to learn more.
In short, certification by The American Board of Plastic Surgery means the following:
1. That the surgeon in question successfully completed an accredited Plastic Surgery Residency Program. This means they trained for YEARS under the supervision of other Board Certified Plastic Surgeons.
2. That the surgeon successfully passed a comprehensive written examination of their plastic surgery knowledge.
3. That the surgeon then successfully passed a multiple day long ORAL examination of their knowledge, personality, decision-making, and judgement in plastic surgery, including a thorough review of their surgical outcomes and techniques.
You can easily and quickly check if your surgeon is properly trained and certified at The Board's site:
You should also be aware of the following:
a. There are only 24 Boards recognized by The American Board of Medical Specialties- the body responsible for overseeing medical training in the United States. There are many organizations calling themselves "boards" and giving out certificates to anyone with a heartbeat, but only certification by one of these 24 means the doctor completed proper training. Their site is: http://www.abms.org/
The american board of cosmetic surgery is NOT one of them.
b. There are many people offering to do plastic surgery- and alarmingly, many are NOT plastic surgeons!. The law says any MD can do any procedure as long as they have a place to do it in, and as long as they can get patients to let them.
Believe it or not, this is true.
What traditionally has kept most unscrupulous doctors from just up and deciding to start doing procedures they are not trained to do has been hospital credentialing committees.
If you cannot prove to the hospital that your RESIDENCY TRAINING trained you to do a procedure, the hospital will NOT allow you to do it there.
What has turned the system on its ear, and the reason you as a patient must be ever vigilant and careful, is that many plastic surgery procedures can (even if its not best to) be performed in the doctor's office.
When the procedure is done in the doctor's office, there's no one to verify the doctor has the appropriate training before they start doing things to patients- except YOU!
It is therefore incumbent on the patient to verify the surgeon's credentials BEFORE allowing something to be done to them!
c. Some of these unscrupulous and untrained, non-plastic surgeons will try to fool patients by listing themselves as Board Certified- but if you don't make sure it is by The American Board of Plastic Surgery, you could be putting yourself at risk of having liposuction by an eye doctor (believe it or not, this happens), or something similarly alarming. Most often this will appear this way:
"Board Certified, Plastic Surgery"
The comma is VERY significant, because it means their certification could be in ANYTHING and given by ANYBODY, but they do plastic surgery.
PLEASE be careful.
Knowing the surgeon you see is certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the simplest way to maximize your safety and chances of long term satisfaction with your plastic surgery experience and outcome.
Finally, a word about societies. Membership in one or both of 2 (and only these 2) societies does indicate the surgeon is certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery, as these societies will not admit you without it:
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
Both societies' websites allow you to search for member surgeons.
It is important to note that membership in ANY other societies does NOT carry the same guarantee of certification by The American Board of Plastic Surgery.