American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) or American College of Surgeons (FACS)?

I'm considering a breast augmentation, and am torn between three doctors. All of them are American Board of Plastic Surgery board certified, two are Fellows, American College of Surgeons, and one is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All have great reviews in several different places. How important is a membership in the ASPS? Should it be a deciding factor? Thanks.

Doctor Answers 17

Alphabet Soup!!

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  Dear Ralphie 13,

   All these letters after our names can be very confusing. This is a very good question because sometimes these letters do not mean much, but in this case, these letters are very important!! The main qualification you should look for is certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). This is the ONLY plastic surgery board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties and ensures your surgeon has surpassed the most rigorous training standards in this country( and the world for that matter). Membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) or the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic surgery (ASAPS) are elective national societies. That being said, I believe that membership in ASPS and ASAPS are very important resources for the latest in techniques, education and advancements in our field. You must have ABPS certification to belong to ASPS and ASAPS. Furthermore, ASAPS requires that you have proficiency in aesthetic/cosmetic procedures specifically. Some surgeons, myself included, not only belong to all three of these societies, but are also completing the ABPS Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program and I believe that we are maintaining the highest level of training and proficiency. The ABPS-MOC is a ten year cycle of training/education that cumulates in the surgeon having to prove his proficiency with a re-certification test. I would ask your surgeon if they are participating in this MOC program, and ask why if they are not. Once you've navigated the alphabet soup and all things being equal, I would go with the surgeon that you trust, has good results and references and the one you get along with the best. Good luck.


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All these labels can be quite confusing.  Most importantly, when deciding which plastic surgeon to choose, a plastic surgeon's board certification is the single most important requirement.  There are many false "board certifications", that non-plastic surgeons use to lure people into believing they are real plastic surgeons.  The ONLY board certification for plastic surgeons is the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).  This means that the surgeon has satisfied all written and oral examinations after completing a full training program in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.  The other groups you mentioned are all societies that a plastic surgeon may choose to join to allow them to keep up with the latest in advances in the field, and they are simply a personal choice.  The American Society of Plastic Surgeons and The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery are both groups that require ABPS certification, as well as additional requirements of plastic surgeons before they are allowed to join. 

As long as all three are ABPS-certified, then they have met these high requirements you should seek.  Once you have found an ABPS-certified plastic surgeon, otherwise I would suggest that you consult with several surgeons so you can see who you simply feel the most comfortable with, then go with your gut.   Hope this helps!  

Alina Sholar, MD
Austin Plastic Surgeon

Choosing your plastic surgeon?

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Hello! Thank you for your question.  Cost will vary among plastic surgeons as well as with geographic location and what procedures exactly they will be providing to you.  Certainly, researching a board certified plastic surgeon well-versed in the procedure(s) you desire is recommended - checking the American Board of Plastic Surgery is a great start. Consult with two or more surgeons who you are happy with their postoperative photographs and those who you, most importantly, feel comfortable and confident with. Use the opportunity to ask questions as well as visit with staff and investigate the accredited facilities they work out of.  I believe fellowship-training, beyond the core plastic surgery residency to be important, as that surgeon has gone above and beyond to seek additional training specific to that area of interest and chosen to gain additional expertise in that area.   

Experience should not be measured solely by the age of the surgeon or how many years s/he has been in practice.  Checking the education and training is more valuable - a Board Certified MD plastic surgeon who was accepted to and completed an integrated plastic surgery residency, in today's day and age, are excellent choices. Those are the top students who have superior training at top institutes.  Plastic Surgery is NOT a is a residency. Those surgeons who have actually successfully completed additional fellowship training beyond the plastic surgery residency are also passionate about that area and will likely have the most recent, innovative, and up to date techniques. These are usually the younger surgeons, who are still readily willing and competent to continue to strive for the newest material and remain up to date on literature and conferences. 

You must decide for yourself who you are most comfortable with and confident with who will meet your goals and expectations. Cost may differ just on expertise and the aforementioned additional training ad what that additional expertise training has afforded to his/her patients.  Hope that this helps!  Best  wishes!


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The membership of the ASPS, American Board of Plastic Surgery and the FACS or Fellow of the American College of Surgeons are both accolades

Norman Bakshandeh, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon

Being a Member of ASPS

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Being a Member of American Society of Plastic Surgeons is a key element. A requirement for a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons is that one has to be Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery this means you have passed all of the rigorous training and examinations to become a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. It is a very important factor.

Rod J. Rohrich, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon

Board certification

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There is only one board recognized by the American Medical Association for the training and certification of plastic surgeons.  That board is the American Board of Plastic Surgery.  Unfortunately, there are a number of doctors out there from other specialties who take weekend courses in cosmetic surgery and then call themselves "board certified (in something) plastic surgeons."  If your doctor is certified by ABPS, you will know that he has undergone the most rigorous training and certification requirements and is a legitimate plastic surgeon.  While this does not guarantee a result, it will give you your best chance for the best result possible.  ABPS certification is the most important of the three groups that you mentioned.

Plastic Surgeon Certification

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The most important criteria is certification by the Amer. Board of Plastic Surgery.  Fellowship in the ACS is something that some BC surgeons elect to do.  I would seek a surgeon who is a member of ASPS or ASAPS, if not both.

John Whitt, MD (retired)
Louisville Plastic Surgeon

American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) or American College of Surgeons (FACS)?

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I recommend you call the ABPS to "verify" each is truly boarded in Plastic Surgery. If they all are than I feel ASPS membership out weighs FACS membership. 

What do all the initials after the name mean?

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This is a great question.  You should always be looking for a plastic surgeon that is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery - this is the only true board certification for plastic surgery.  The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the national society for plastic surgeons.  Most board certified surgeons join, and you might want to ask why a doctor has not achieved membership.  Approximately 1/3 of board certified plastic surgeons will achieve membership in the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).  Membership in these societies requires that a physician remain up to date with continuing education, adhere to ethical standards, and regularly attend meetings to learn more about the latest developments in the field.  The American College of Surgeons is an organization for surgeons of all specialties.  All of these are important - and show dedication to the profession.  


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ASPS is the plastic surgery society that plastic surgeons join after passing multiple exams and becoming board certified. Many ASPS members become Fellows of the ACS afterwards, and some get it before if they are boarded in General surgery or another specialty recognized by the ACS.  For instance, I have both.

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.