What Does a Candidate for Board Certification (W/ ABPS) Mean?

I recently had a consultation with a plastic surgeon at a well known hospital in my area. I discovered that he was not ABPS certified. I was told he was a candidate for ABPS certification and that the certification is just an extra thing to have... a nice to have. I opted not proceed, but can someone explain what an ABPS "candidate" means? Thank you!

Doctor Answers 12

Plastic Surgeon Board Certification

Good for you for asking this question!  It is gratifying to see that people interested in plastic surgery are becoming more aware of the value of board certification by the ABPS.  If you haven't done so already, go to the organization's website and read more about it.

When a cosmetic surgeon is a candidate for certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, it means he or she has completed the educational requirements for certification, which include a lengthy residency with a specific focus on plastic surgery.  (As you may know, there are many other boards with much less stringent requirements). 

That's a great first step.  To follow through with the certification process, candidates take tests and prove themselves in private practice.  If a surgeon is relatively new in practice, it's possible they just have not yet had the time to complete their certification.  If the surgeon is not so new, it may mean they are unable to be certified for some reason. 

Certification by the ABPS is much more than a "nice to have" extra credential.  It means a plastic surgeon has passed the toughest hurdles in the field.  ABPS certification can give you that bit of extra confidence that's important when your health is at stake.

Elliot Jacobs, M.D.

New York Plastic Surgeon

New York Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

American Board of Plastic Surgery Candidate

For a plastic surgeon to be Board Certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery,  the doctor has to have graduated from an accredited medical school and completed at least five years as a resident surgeon. The residency training includes all areas of surgery with at least two years devoted entirely to plastic surgery. Then to become Board Certified in Plastic Surgery, the doctor then must pass comprehensive written and oral exams. A candidate is one who is eligible to take the exams but has not passed them yet.

Unfortunately,  state laws allow any licensed physician to promote themselves as a "plastic" or "cosmetic" surgeon, even if he or she has not had training as a plastic surgeon or even any surgical training at all!  Good luck and be careful!

Miguel Delgado, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 75 reviews

What board certification means

All medical specialties have boards that are sanctioned by the American Board of Medical Specialties, and the ABPS is the member board for plastic surgeons. In order to qualify for examination, an approved (accredited) residency program must be completed, which typically takes 6-7 years after medical school. So a candidate is a fully trained surgeon, but the certification exams are based in part on cases from practice so it takes a year or two.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 52 reviews

Depends on the doc...

We (board certified plastic surgeons) are all candidates at some point. The board examines us based on our cases and we can't sit for the exam until we've accumulated sufficient numbers of cases. During that period of collecting cases - we're candidates. Unfortunately, if you don't pass the exam, there isn't a term for you and some docs who finish plastic surgery residencies NEVER pass their board exams. These folks are also considered candidates.

Robert Frank, MD
Munster Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

What Does a Candidate for Board Certification (W/ ABPS) Mean?

A candidate is someone who is eligible to take the Board Certification Exam and has either not taken yet or may not have passed it.

Rigo Mendoza, MD
Tampa Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

Board Candidate

There is really no such thing as a "Candidate" for Board Certification. People use this term loosely, however, to mean someone who has just finished their training and is in the process of obtaining their board certification. In the case of the physician you mentioned with "certification just an extra..nice thing to have," you must wonder whether he or she is really in the process of obtaining that certification. You were probably wise in your decision. Most physicians who have completed their training and are in the process of becoming board certified would have explained the process and exactly where they were in the process.

Robert T. Buchanan, MD
Highlands Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Plastic Surgery Board Certification Questions

To obtain information with regard to plastic surgery board certification inquires, I would suggest reviewing information from the websites abplsurg.org and plasticsurgery.org

Craig Mezrow, MS, MD, FACS
Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Candidate for Board Certification

Every plastic surgeon that has recently finished their residency training is "board eligible" or a candidate for board certification. Typically residents finish their training programs in July and are not able to take their written board exam until the following November. If they pass the written board exam, then they are able to take the oral board exam the following year. Until the oral exam has been passed, the surgeon is considered a candidate for board certification. If a surgeon is more than 3 or 4 years removed from the ending of his/her residency training and still not yet certified, then there may be a concern that one or more of the exams have been failed. But, no surgeons are capable of being board certified until they are almost 2 years removed from their residency training graduation. 

Wm. Todd Stoeckel, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 84 reviews

Board certification process

A candidate is someone who meets criteria to take the exam (has finished a certified residency) but has not yet passed both parts of the exam. There are written boards that can be taken the year after completing residency. The oral exam is taken a year or more later after a specific number of surgeries and types of surgeries are completed. These are reviewed as part of the exam. Most people who are candidates are just too new in practice to have completed this, and some have failed. There isn't a way to know unless you ask. 

Dana Goldberg, MD
Jupiter Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

"Candidate" for Board Certification in Plastic Surgery?

 Thank you for the question.

The word “candidate” means that the surgeon has completed training but has not yet passed the necessary testing to become board certified.   Some surgeons, despite efforts, do not pass the testing process and do not achieve certification.

 Hope this helps.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,488 reviews

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.