Paid for and Scheduled TT & Lipo & Just Figured out That my PS is Not Certified by ABPS - Should I Be Worried?

After 3 consults, I chose this doctor because he was more hands on & concerned with all of the results I'm seeking, plus he gave me names/numbers of previous clients to talk with and he was reasonably priced, not the lowest or highest. He's got an impressive resume with plenty of positions and honors, as an MD since 1975. He is licensed by the NC Medical Board & a fellow of the AACS & ALS but I just looked him up & he's not licensed by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Open since 1983.

Doctor Answers 15

TT and lipo by a non-Board Certified surgeon - not for me!

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You have met up with a "cosmetic surgeon," one who professes to be a plastic surgeon but isn't Board Certified in Plastic Surgery.  Going to somebody like that is like hoping to get lucky.  Who would you rather fly your plane? A trained and certified pilot or somebody who learned on a flight simulator?

My plastic surgeon is not a plastic surgeon. Should I be concerned?

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Dear Liddysue,

You bring up an interesting point. Who should be doing plastic surgery? First, the American Board of Plastic Surgery is not a licensing organization. It is one of the 24 boards of The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) who certifies residency trained plastic surgeons. The purpose of the board is to make sure that the surgeon is capable of delivering safe plastic surgical care, have good surgical judgement and high moral standards. The states grant you a license to practice medicine. All you need is an internship (one year of clinical training after medical school) and can get a state license. Any MD can belong to the AACS (gynecologists, general surgeons, dermatologists, ENT, ophthalmologists, oral surgeons, etc.). Obviously, these MD's have different backgrounds and training, but they all can claim to do abdominoplasties or liposuction in their offices. Hospitals allow the doctor to operate within his/her scope of practice only, that is within their training in residency. I often find that these non-core "plastic surgeons" embelish their resumes on line by listing any conference they attended no matter how trivial. A plastic surgeon is required by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) to complete 50 hours of CME (continiuing medical education)/year to maintain good standing in the society.  It is also important to look at the surgeon's previous work, by looking at his/her pre and postop photos. Remember, these are usually the best results and might not represent his/her most common results. I hope this is not too confusing. Good luck.


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Be careful. There's no question that choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon is safer, and gives you an indication that the surgeon has pursued his or her academics seriously and has been willing to sit to be examined by his or her peers in the profession. The only Board that is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties concerning abdominoplasty is the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Licensure by a state board does not imply expertise or specialization, simply notes that Gen. medical exams have been passed. The other boards that you list, to my knowledge, are not recognized by the ABMS.  You should consult their website to verify the statements.

Occasionally, if you meet a young surgeon they are not yet board-certified, but they are Board eligible. It takes several years after completing residency to pass these boards. However, since your surgeon has been in practice since 1975 I would be concerned.

John E. Sherman, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

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Board certification

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I think you need to check the doctor's training and experience.  Did they do a residency that actually trained them to do plastic surgery?  If so, why are they not board certified?  Worth asking.

David A. Lickstein, MD
Palm Beach Gardens Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Board Certification in Plastic Surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc.

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Thank you for your very important question.  I have read the other answers and agree with the comments.  I guess I will respond by asking a question from another angle...

If the surgeon you saw is so good and so experienced, then why isn't he board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery? What is he not telling you?

You can go to the American Board of Medical Specialties to see if this guy is board-certified in any of the 24 recognized boards.

You can also call your state medical board and see if there have been any complaints filed against him.

Keep in mind that any physician can wear a white coat and make their resume look impressive. It takes a lot more time, effort, and rigorous testing to be a qualified, board-certifed plastic surgeon.

Do your homework and good luck.

J. Jason Wendel, MD, FACS
Nashville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 221 reviews

Only use board certified surgeons for tummy tuck

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There is no way to tell if your doctor is a good surgeon or not. Board certification is not a guarantee of excellence, but what it does represent  is a marker for someone who has trained in the appropriate programs and then passed a rigorous series of exams to prove that he is qualified to call himself a board certified plastic surgeon. A tummy tuck and liposuction is a large operation and it only makes sense to maximize your chance of having a good outcome. I hope this helps.


Daniel A. Medalie, MD

Surgeon not certified

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Many doctors advertise themselves as plastic surgeons when they are not. Look up the surgeon on your state's medical board to confirm if he is a plastic surgeon, then ask why he is not board certified. Be sure you are comfortable with his answer.

Donna Rich, MD
Webster Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Non-Board certified surgeon

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I would be concerned. Would you have brain surgeon with a licensed physician who was concerned, had a good disposition and gave you names of past clients? Of course not! Why should cosmetic surgery be different? Board certified plastic surgeons have trained for a minimum of seven years and have passed written and oral board examinations. I decided in medical school, after being exposed to the specialty by one of the greats, Dr. Tom Krizek at Yale, to become a plastic surgeon. It wasn't to get rich, either. Unfortunately, in today's world of managed care, many physicians in other fields have tried to take short cuts into our specialty because it is more lucrative than those in which they have trained, or they haven't made the grade. Plastic surgical residency slots are extremely limited and competition for them is fierce. All physicians must be licensed by the state in order to practice medicine legally. In terms of having paid for the surgery already, you will need to check your contract in order to determine whether you can obtain a full refund.

Board certified surgeon for tummy tuck?

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A board certified plastic surgeon has greater proven credentials for performing this type of surgery than a "cosmetic surgeon".

Just because somebody is personable does not mean they are the best surgeon for you.

Brent Moelleken, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 194 reviews

Just Figured out That my PS is Not Certified by ABPS - Should I Be Worried?

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Yes, I think you should be worried. I hope you'll be able to get your  fees back or at least some of them. The office should have shown you, in writing, what their financial policies are before collecting your money. But even if you lose some of it that is better than what could happen if the surgery goes awry. Board cerification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is a minimum and starter point in looking for a qualified surgeon. Have you asked the surgeon what his residency training was in? I can tell you my first speciality before going into plastic surgery was as a general surgeon and I was board certified in that too. But in all the years of that training I never had formal teaching in how to do an abdominoplasty.

Ronald V. DeMars, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 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.