Why Isn't the ABFPRS Recognized by ABMS?

Why isn’t the American Board of Facial Plastic and ReconstructiveSurgery (ABFPRS) recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS)? Should I be concerned if my facial plastic surgeon is not board certificated by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, but is however certified by the ABFPRS and the American Board of Otolaryngology and a member of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery? Is the ABFPRS a board that is strictly a marketing tool or is there substantial training involved in order to become ABRPRS board certified?

Doctor Answers 1

For political reasons, of course. ABPS versus ABFPRS.

Why is the ABFPRS not a member of the ABMS? Simple: for political reasons--purely because the American Board of Plastic Surgery feels threatened by the ABFPRS--the ABPS fought long and hard to keep the ABFPRS out of the ABMS. (Talk about a "marketing tool"!)

The issue, however, has become moot. In every single state in the U.S. where the issue has been raised, the ABFPRS has been formally recognized by state legislature as ABMS equivalent. [In Florida, for instance, where I practice, see Florida Statute 458.3312 and the department of health rules and regulations 64B8-11.001(7)(a)]

Let's be perfectly clear about the training and certification pathways for general plastic surgery versus facial plastic surgery.

General plastic surgeons typically do 5 years of general surgery residency (not plastic surgery) followed by a 2-year fellowship in general plastic surgery. Less common is a 3-year general surgery residency followed by a 3-year fellowship in plastic surgery. Board certification in plastic surgery then requires:

1) board certification in general surgery (an ABMS board)

2) passing the written and oral board exams in plastic surgery

3) submitting a case log of 9 consecutive months of surgical cases, with a minimum of 50 qualifying cases.

To be sure, it is a rigorous and difficult certification process.

Facial plastic surgeons typically do 1 year of general surgery, followed by 4 or 5 years of head and neck surgery residency, followed by 1 year of facial plastic surgery fellowship. Board certification in facial plastic surgery then requires:

1) board certification in otolaryngology-head & neck surgery or plastic surgery (both are ABMS boards)

2) passing the written and oral board exams in facial plastic surgery

3) submitting 2 consecutive years of surgical cases with a minimum of 50 qualifying cases per year.

It, too, is as rigorous (more if you include the extra surgical case log requirement) and difficult a certification process.

No one in the world can rightly claim that a board-certified facial plastic surgeon is less qualified, less skilled, less educated, or less rigorously scrutinized than a general plastic surgeon when it comes to surgery above the collar bones. Period. One could, however, make the argument that sub-specialists (facial plastic surgeons) are--on average--more narrowly and deeply skilled in their sub-specialty than generalists. Now, I know many excellent general plastic surgeons who also do wonderful work in the face and neck and I'm proud to call them colleagues. (And I don't fear that competition).  But only the jealous or insecure few would mislead you into thinking that they're more qualified than us facial plastic surgeons in surgery above the collar bones.

Hope this helps,


P.S. The whole notion of "Plastic" surgery started in the face, not with breast and body work. Pioneers in the field--long before there was a specialty of plastic surgery--came from otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat, e.g., Sir Harold Gillies) since it was things like rhinoplasty (the nose), or otoplasty (the ears), or surgery of the neck, reconstruction of the face from disease or trauma, etc. Some came from orthopedics (e.g., Dr. Jacques Joseph) even, since a rhinoplasty was surgery on bones and cartilage from that standpoint. And some came from general surgery.

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