How Do I Know my Doctor is Board Certified?

Im about to have a breast augmentation with a doctor who has great reviews but how can i search if he is board certified. Excuse my ignorance, but whats the difference if a doctor is a board certified or not? If a doctor is not board certified is it bad?

Doctor Answers 19

Board Certification without stating in what can be misleading

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Thank you for your question. A Board-certified Plastic Surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.  This is an ABMS (American Board of Medical Specialties) recognized board.

I have included a search link.  You may enter your doctor's information to find out if your doctor is Board-certified and in what specialty.

It will also tell in what specialty the certification is.  Some doctors list themselves as Board-certified, which they are. But what they don't tell you is the specialty that they are certified. Often times, it is not Plastic Surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

I hope this helps.

Nashville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 221 reviews

Board Certified or Not

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This is an excellent question and can be very confusing for patients. Board Certification generally refers to the recognized Boards by the American Board of Medical Specialties. For plastic surgeons the recognized board is The American Board of Plastic Surgery. Most board certified plastic surgeons then join the American Society of Plastic Surgery or ASPS and you can got to that website to see if your doctor truly is board certified in plastic surgery. You can also look for a Circle type design which is usually displayed by most plastic surgeons when they are members of ASPS. An additional level of expertise and concentration is The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery membership or ASAPS. These are the things I would recommend looking for when pursuing any type of plastic surgery especially breast augmentation.

"Board-certified" is important--but WHAT board is more important!

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Board certification is obviously important: virtually every doctor who advertises himself or herself as a “cosmetic surgeon” lists “Board-certified” as part of their credentials and list of attributes. So it must be important, right? But just what is Board Certification?

Every doctor who graduates from medical school has earned their medical degree: MD stands for Medical Doctor, DO for Doctor of Osteopathy, both of whom diagnose illness, treat patients with prescription medicines, and perform operations, but not without much more training after medical school. (By the way, other health care professionals use the term doctor, such as DC—Doctor of Chiropractic, or OD—Doctor of Optometry, and there are now practitioners in Holistic Care, Naturopathic medicine, or Traditional Chinese Medicine who sometimes use the term Doctor. None of these providers has the training or credentials to perform surgery, whether in a hospital or a private clinic.)

After graduation from medical school, most MDs and DOs complete a residency training program in their choice of medical specialty: Internal Medicine, Family Practice, Surgery, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, or Radiology, to name a few. Additional subspecialty training (often called a Fellowship) may be necessary to become Board-certified in Neurosurgery, Thoracic Surgery, or Plastic Surgery). There are 24 physician specialties that make up the American Board of Medical Specialties, including all of those listed above. A total of 10 surgical specialties or subspecialties, and 14 medical specialties or subspecialties, make up these 24 areas of training and expertise within the ABMS. Each of these member Boards set their individual standards for quality practice in that specialty, and each sets membership criteria (proper and complete residency training, licensure, and rigorous oral and written examinations). Since specialties differ so widely, the criteria that make up these tests are quite different. What makes someone a good family practitioner does not necessarily make him or her a competent neurosurgeon. Similarly, just being Board-certified in one specialty does not guarantee training, competence, or expertise in cosmetic surgery.

It may surprise you that every doctor’s state license is the same: they all allow the doctor to practice "Medicine and Surgery." The individual doctor’s practice in a chosen specialty is based on residency and fellowship training, meeting the criteria for Board certification in that specific specialty, and then (if they practice in a hospital or clinic) credentials committees and peer review that permit practice in the specialty. The latter includes detailed lists of permitted procedures; for instance, a MD who is fully trained and Board Certified in Internal Medicine is not allowed to perform surgical procedures, and would be severely disciplined and perhaps dismissed from the hospital staff if he or she did so. From a state license point of view, however, it is legal for any physician to perform any procedure or prescribe any medication (though it may well be unethical or improper to do so outside one’s training or expertise).

It may also surprise you that Cosmetic Surgery is NOT one of the 24 ABMS Boards. Doctors of various specialties perform cosmetic surgery. For instance, an ABMS-Board-certified Ophthalmologist may appropriately perform cosmetic eyelid surgery, particularly if they have taken additional fellowship training in Oculoplastic Surgery. An ABMS-Board-certified Surgeon may appropriately perform mole or skin cancer removal, but may not have the specific training to perform more complex reconstructive surgery. An ABMS-Board-certified Otolaryngologist might appropriately perform cosmetic eyelid or facial surgery, but does not have the training to perform breast implants or abdominal surgery. Dermatology training after medical school may include a first year of transitional (flexible) program, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, OB/GYN, Surgery, Emergency Medicine or Family Medicine, followed by 3 years of Dermatology residency. True surgical experience is correspondingly variable. Many Dermatology programs now include “Dermatologic Surgery” in their training descriptions and certificates, but the actual amount of cosmetic surgical training that Dermatologists have is extremely variable. That being said, some ABMS-Board-certified Dermatologists have taken some training in cosmetic surgical procedures and perform select procedures well.

Most surgeons are proud of their training and are eager to present their residency and fellowship credentials and certificates that show exactly which ABMS Board they are members of, and where and how long they studied cosmetic surgery. The concern, of course, is when doctors imply or suggest (sometimes quite blatantly) that they have more training or expertise than they actually possess. This is not about “turf” or “restraint of trade,” it is about ethics, honesty, and ultimately, the exact training and experience the doctor truly has. Board Certification is one way of selecting that degree of (proven by testing) training and expertise. So, look carefully at which Board your doctor claims certification by!

There is a non-ABMS "American Board of Cosmetic Surgery" that certifies doctors of various specialties; training requirements are less than those attained by ABMS-Board-certified Plastic Surgeons.

Ultimately, the prospective patient needs to know that Board-certification is important, but also needs to know whether or not the certification is ABMS-recognized or otherwise, and most importantly, in which specialty the Board certification is earned. Board-certification is a great starting point—take the time to learn just how your cosmetic surgeon gained his or her training and experience. American Board of Plastic Surgery-certified plastic surgeons are happy to share what required so much time and dedication to learn!

To check any surgeon's credentials, go to

If a doctor is not board-certified, why not? Are you more impressed with testimonials and marketing, or proper training and experience?

Richard H. Tholen, MD, FACS
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 263 reviews

Board Certification for Breast Surgeons

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The best trained and most qualified plastic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

They have from 6-10 years of surgical training in plastic and general surgery after medical school. 

Make sure your Plastic Surgeon is properly trained.

What you need to know about board certification

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Every specialty in the US has a certifying board that is part of the American Board of Medical Specialties. For example cosmetic and reconstructive surgeons would be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and are listed at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website at Beware of official sounding but bogus boards.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 59 reviews

Board Certification

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This is an excellent question!  You can check on the ASPS website (american society of plastic surgery) or the American Board of Plastic Surgery.  You want your surgeon to be a board certified plastic surgeon.  That ensures that your surgeon has had the proper education, training and has passed written as well as oral tests, etc.

Making sure your surgeon is board certified will guarantee that he / she has had proper training and going a step further, you should make sure you ask to see many examples of their work and even speak to some of their patients for feedback.  

Do your research - you will be happy you did so.

Best Wishes!

Board Certification.

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It is very important to verify your surgeons credentials. Surgeons Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery have gone through rigerous taining, exams and credentialing. It is also important to verify credentials. You can do this by going to ABPLASTICSURGERY.ORG

Francis X. Fleming, MD
Kennewick Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Board certified

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The American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive surgeons will have a roster of all members.  Do be careful not to mix this up with facial cosmetic surgeons.  This is not a recognized board.  Good luck

Board Certification Matters!

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Board certification is a process by which a physician is approved by a regulated board of medicine to practice within his or her field. To be Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery means that the physician has completed an accredited residency program (training program) in Plastic Surgery, had passed rigorous written and oral examinations, and has been reviewed in reference to their education, clinical decision making, and ethics. To find out if your plastic surgeon is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, go to the website I've linked below.

One important distinction to make regarding Board Certification. Be aware that simply stating that one is "Board Certified" is not satisfactory. They must state WHICH board they are certified by. For instance, there is no recognized Board of Cosmetic Surgery - this is simply a "pay your dues and collect your certificate" ruse. Be sure to identify them as Boarded by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Click on the link below to find out.

Finally, does it matter? The simple answer, yes. Would you have a contractor work on your house if you didn't know they were trained to do the construction? Why would you let someone operate on you just because they have a good review on the internet? Always do your homework!

David Bogue, MD
Boca Raton Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Is board certification important?

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It's not just important whether a physician is board certified but in what specialty.  Would you want a plastic surgeon to deliver your baby or perform brain surgery? Of course not!  As I surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, I completed four years of general surgery residency, including a junior burn fellowship, research in plastic surgery and a year as a chief resident and then two years of residency devoted solely to plastic and reconstructive surgery.   I then passed a comprehensive set of written and oral board examinations over a two year period and hold lifetime certification in my field.  The American Society of Plastic Surgeons maintains a detailed website with patient information as well as rosters of board certified member surgeons throughout the United States.

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.