What is the Difference Between Being a Member of the ASPS and Being Board Certified?

Doctor Answers 3


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 Thank you for the excellent question. There are many many Boards that can certify practitioners and surgeons. The American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS) certifies Surgical Specialist based upon their field of training, education and experience. They have been recognized by the AMA for many many decades. This is the Board that Certifies your Urologist, Heart Surgeon, Neurosurgeon, etc. This is also the Board that certifies Plastic Surgeons through the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).


 To be a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) a practitioner must first be Board Certified by the ABPS. This excludes such practitioners as anesthesiologists, gynecologists, etc. So, why should being a member of the ASPS be important consideration to a cosmetic/ surgical  patient. First, these surgeons are required to only work in patient safe accredited surgical facility’s and have hospital privileges for the same surgical procedures that they perform on outpatients. Rigorous screening process by specialty committees and departments ensure qualifications of surgeons who are allowed to have surgical privileges at a hospital. These hospital privileges should exist even if your surgeon have his/her own facility. If you have a complication after surgery that requires hospitalization who will be taking care of you and where are you to go?
 Second, they are required to abide by very specific codes of practice, billing and advertising so, as to not purposely deceive the public. This is what is referred to as the ASPS Code of Ethics. Few other Boards or Societies hold their members to such high ethical standards of patient care, safety, practice, advertising and appropriate billing.

 Another important practice of ASPS members are Critical Pathways of Care. Surgeons that perform many of the same procedures develop Critical Pathways of Care that can dramatically assist in improving a patients surgical outcome. The reduction of Untoward Events and Unfavorable Outcomes has been and continues to be a major health care concern. One of  primary goals of the ASPS is to improve plastic surgery outcomes. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through their Plastic Surgery Foundation (PSF) on these efforts every year. Most patients do not know but, the ASPS has also served as a political patient advocate for many years. They were responsible for the first national legislation requiring insurance carriers not to exclude/ limit care of breast cancer patients, regulation of outpatient surgery for patient safety at the state level, and assisted in the coverage of the correction of congenital anomalies in children. 


 If you did not know the current position from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) relays that any provider can make the claim that they are a plastic surgeon. They have allegedly determined it is the public that is required to ultimately make the final decision of who is most qualified. So, a large number of physicians from Family Practitioners to Gynecologists have expanded their scope of practice into the vast fields of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Your provider may not even be a surgeon. Be sure to ask “What Speciality is your Surgeon?”  The ABPS  is the only surgical speciality board recognized by the ABMS to certify the speciality of Plastic Surgeons. The ASPS and ASAPS are composed of Plastic Surgeons Board certified under the ABMS through the ABPS.

I hope this explanation is of assistance.



Gary R Culbertson, MD, FACS

Columbia Plastic Surgeon

Only Borad Certified?

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Excellent question.

In order to be a member of ASAPS, on must successfully complete an accredited plastic surgery residency, and pass rigorous written and oral exams.  Additionally, on must adhere to strict ethical guidelines.


Board certification is a must, but it doesn't mean you are dealing with a trained plastic surgeon.  For example, a family doctor with only a weekend class in say, liposuction, may advertise that he is board certified (in family medicine), and that he does liposuction.  He would be "truthful" technically, but he is not a plastic surgeon.


Be sure that you go to a board certified plastic surgeon for your plastic surgery.  Look for the ASPS credentials.  Also, ask you doctor "did you complete a plastic surgery residency", and if he hesitates to answer, beware.


Go to the ASPS doctor locator as well.



ASPS and board certified

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Board certification can be for any specialty.  Being a member of the ASPS is a board ceritifed plastic surgeon in good standing who meets the requirements to join.

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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.