I'm a bit confused. Board certification?

I'm advised to make sure I choose a board certified PS, and some doctors make enfasis on the board certified part and others on the plastic part, which has left me confused as well as scared. Please excuse my ignorance, but is it that easy for a doctor to perform PLASTIC SURGERY on women? Other than look them up as being board certified, what addtl. precautions should I take when choosing what is best for my wellbeing? Are there any red flags I should be aware of, like location or pricing? TIA

Doctor Answers 9

Board Certified

Very smart on your part to notice this issue.  The only board that is recognized by the ABMS (American Board of Medical Specialites) to perform plastic surgery is the ABPS (Am Board of Plastic Surgery).  All the other plastic boards, or cosmetic boards, or facial plastic boards are not the real deal.  It takes almost no training to be a Board certified "Cosmetic Surgeon."  Most any doctor can become one by filling out the application and paying the fees.  But, a true BC plastic surgeon has attended a qualified training program so you know that they have the training.  Having said that, it does not guarantee excellence, but you know they have done the training, passed the right tests, kept up with continuing education, and probably know what they are doing.  You are really taking a chance when you choose a surgeon with so called plastic surgical board certification.

I'm a bit confused. Board certification?

Thank you for the important question. Unfortunately, differentiating the credentials of the variety of physicians who wish to provide "cosmetic surgery" services, can be very confusing to patients. Also unfortunately, there is no strict regulation set up to protect the consumer by state or national medical regulatory organizations. Therefore, patients must take the responsibility to ask the question: what are you board-certified in?
The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only board recognized by the American Board of medical specialties. Confirming that your surgeon is certified by the American Board of plastic surgeon is very important; this will assure you that your surgeon's undergone rigorous training, testing, and continued medical education necessary to become and remain board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Plastic surgeons who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery are then potential candidates to join the American Society of Plastic Surgery and/or the Aesthetic Society of Plastic Surgery. These societies will have lists of their plastic surgeon members; these lists may be helpful when patients are seeking a board-certified plastic surgeon. in the process of selecting a plastic surgery I also encourage patients to ask to SEE lots of examples of their work AND preferably speak/see patients who have had similar procedures done.
Be very careful with your decision-making. You will find, while doing your due diligence, that there are many different “specialties” who will offer their services to you; again, I strongly recommend you concentrate on surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Be very careful with your decision-making. You will find, while doing your due diligence, that there are many different “specialties” who will offer their services to you; again, I strongly recommend you concentrate on surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Again, I cannot overemphasize the importance of careful selection of plastic surgeon when it comes to concerns such as safety, achievement of the desired outcome, and ability to manage complications that may arise (even in the best of hands). Keep in mind that revisionary surgery may be more costly in many ways. I hope this, and the attached link, helps. Best wishes.

I'm a bit confused. Board certification?


The multitude of alphabet soup organizations and boards is very confusing for patients. The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) and the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS) sound nearly the same, but there are vast differences. The American Board of Plastic Surgery is a real nationally recognized board, while the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is a self proclaimed group of individualswho wanted to try to legitimize their entry into the field of cosmetic surgery without the required legitimate credentials (actual completion of formal supervised plastic surgery training and board certification). They have specifically chosen that name for a marketing benefit based on deception.

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) oversees 24 medical specialty boards in the United States and is considered the gold standard of physician certification in the United States. While the naming of the boards seems similar, there is only one official plastic surgery board that is accepted in the U.S. and recognized by the ABMS as the standard for plastic surgery - and that is theAmerican Board of Plastic Surgery.The designation as a Diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery is reserved for surgeons that have completed a lengthy surgical residency training in plastic surgery, and then passed both the official extensive written and oral examinations under the strict rules of the ABMS organization. It is the highest standard available in the U.S. for plastic surgeons. Members of the American Board of Plastic Surgery are listed on both the ABPS’ and ABMS’ websites.

The ABCS and several other so-called boards with similar sounding names are not recognized by the ABMS. ABCS is a self-designated "board" that "certifies" physicians of various specialties who wish to perform cosmetic surgery procedures--doctors who may have minimal if any true surgical training (and often only via weekend "courses”). They accept and credential physicians who do not necessarily have residency training in plastic surgery including general surgeons, emergency medicine doctors, family practitioners dermatologists, obstetric-gynecologists and others who can take their "certification" exam...without ever having undergone a single day of plastic surgery residency training. In some cases they have no formal surgery residency training at all.

Furthermore, there are no cosmetic surgery certifications that are recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialists, nor is there any “board”, organization or academy that has the word “cosmetic” in it that is recognized by the ABMS. In addition the Medical Board of California formally rejected the ABCS’ application and request to be recognized as having legitimate board status. That rejection was legally upheld.
An additional understanding of the alphabet of valid plastic surgical organizations is beneficial. Members of the American Board of Plastic Surgery are able to become members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Membership is an indication of appropriate prerequisite plastic surgery training, board certification and adherence to a board of ethical practice guidelines. Members of the American Society of plastic surgery can be found at the American Society of Plastic Surgery web site.

Board certified plastic surgeons in the United States as well as certified plastic surgeon from other countries can become members of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). These surgeons have appropriate prerequisite plastic surgery training, board certification, adherence to a board of ethical practice guidelines, and a specific focus and experience in aesthetic (cosmetic) plastic surgery. A list of qualified members can be seen at Smart Beauty Guide.

Since there are risks in any surgical procedure and no one can guarantee a perfect result, a patient should seek the most fully trained individual for plastic surgical procedures to maximize the probability of a good outcome. Your health and well being depend on it. If a member of my family or staff were to undergo the procedure, I would insist that they seek out a real plastic surgeon who is board certified as a diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Robert Singer, MD FACS

La Jolla, California

Board Certification importance

I have a very educational video on the home page of my site- specifically explaining why it is so important to choose a Board Certified PS. Watch the video - it will help you understand better. Once you're on a home page just scroll down and you'll see that video

Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

You should look for a Plastic Surgeon that has been certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. That is the only Board certification that certifies actual plastic surgeons trained in plastic surgery in accredited training programs in the US. Those programs have rigorous training in the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery that have been accredited and require certain amount of years of training certain number of specific cases and written and oral board exams that are one of the most difficult to pass. Those do that best to ensure that you will be taken care of by a well trained plastic surgeon with proper training and experience. With out the proper training and certification in the field one should not be performing plastic surgery. Just like a plastic surgeon should not be performing heart surgery as he is not trained for that. Their are many boards that call them selves cosmetic or aesthetic boards or societies but are not surgeons trained and certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Hope that helps!

Good luck!

I'm a bit confused. Board #certification?

Great question and very responsible.  It is actually important that you choose a board certified plastic surgeon because these surgeons have been certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery which is a rigorous and lengthy process to ensure they are qualified & safe.  This is the ONLY board that is legitimately recognized.  There is another board, American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, but this does not a plastic surgeon make.  This board is not recognized as legitmate and any MD can get certified under this whether or not they have actually done a plastic surgery residency, etc.  There are ER docs, internists, dermatologists etc "certified" under this board but did not have the proper training in plastic surgery to care for patients and potential complications.  You can google the ABPS and they have a Find A Surgeon tool that can help locate board certified plastic surgeons in your area for you to visit.  Be weary of just going by logos on websites as those can easily be copied and pasted even if the MD doesn't have permission to use them.  The American Society of Plastic Surgeons and American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery both also have a Find A Surgeon tool on their websites which is another legitimate way to identify a certified PS since to actually join the society & be listed on their search tool, you must first be certified by the ABPS.  Finally, ask questions when you go to your consult, assess the time the surgeon takes with you, your interaction with them, the staff, and your general feeling.  It's always best to go with "your gut" when you are deciding on a surgeon and choose one that you feel most comfortable with.  It is appropriate to ask to see before and after pictures in the office as well which can help.  Word of mouth from friends/family is also a reasonable way to find a surgeon but you still want to research them and ensure they are board certified.  Good luck!

Megan Jack, MD
Boca Raton Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

How to Choose a Plastic Surgeon

You have asked a very important question.  Not only about board certification but, most importantly, how do you select a surgeon in whom you can place your trust and confidence. There is no fool proof method to do this but you can reduce the likelihood that you will make a poor decision.  You are correct to require that your doctor is board certified.  This should be by the American Board of Plastic Surgery which is the only plastic surgery board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.  You should also inquire if the physician is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.  If you are considering a cosmetic procedure it is also beneficial to determine if your surgeon is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery which is a group of plastic surgeons that have demonstrated competency in cosmetic plastic surgery procedures.  Beyond this, I would suggest looking at photos and reviews of the surgeon and getting a sense of how often the surgeon performs the procedure you are considering.  You can also ask your family physician for a referral.  Finally, make sure you are comfortable with your surgeon and that he/she takes time with you to explain your options and the possible problems that could arise and how those would be addressed.  Good luck.

Richard Kofkoff, MD, FACS
Saint Louis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 73 reviews

I'm a bit confused. Board certification?

GREAT QUESTION! These are some easy steps you can take to determine the qualifications of a "PLASTIC SURGEON". 
1. Call the ABPS - Am Board of Plastic Surgery, see if the surgeon is a member.
2. Call ASPS and/or ASAPS to see if a member.
3. Find the hospitals the PS can operate at.
4. Does the PS work in his/her own office vs a clinic.
Thesauri a great starting point.. 

Board certification

First make sure you are choosing a board certified PLASTIC surgeon. 
There are board certified COSMETIC surgeons, but that is a misleading board. 
Plastic surgery is the only surgical specialty recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties to perform cosmetic surgeries. 
Look for the ASPS (American Society of Plastic Surgeons) logo, or even better, the ASAPS (American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery) logo on the surgeon's website or credentialing. 
To become a member of these societies a surgeon must be a board certified plastic surgeon. On top of that, they have to be recommended and reviewed by their peers for membership, and deemed to be safe and effective.
Make sure the surgeon has privileges at a local hospital. 
Ask to see before and after pictures of the surgeon's actual patients.
Ask if one of the surgeon's postoperative patients would contact you to discuss their experience.  

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.