The Meaning of Board Certification
When you consider plastic surgery, our desire is that the following information will help you to evaluate which doctor you should see. Many people seeking plastic surgery or any other type of medical treatment are aware that they should look for “board certification” among the credentials of their plastic surgeon or other physician.
Most people are not aware of exactly what “board certified” means, and what is involved in a physician becoming board certified. We believe all patients need to have this information to make informed choices in their search for the right plastic surgeon/physician.
Many patients are surprised to learn that any licensed medical doctor, regardless of training, can legally perform plastic surgery and call her or himself a plastic surgeon. Numerous doctors listed under the title of “Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in Yellow Pages from all over the country, have not completed an approved residency in plastic surgery.
The American board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is the national agency, whose function is to oversee sub-specialty boards. Over the years more than 100 medical specialties or subspecialties have submitted to the ABMS for certification, but only 24 have met their strict educational and examination criteria. Plastic Surgery is one of the 24.
The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the evaluating body that is responsible for determining and evaluating the training and certification of plastic and reconstructive surgeons. It is the only plastic surgery board approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties at this point in time. In order to become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a surgeon must first complete an approved residency in plastic surgery, then pass a written qualifying examination, and then an oral certifying examination.
There are other surgeons, besides plastic surgeons, who have the ability and experience, which enable them to do cosmetic surgery. Otolaryngologists (Ear Nose and Throat specialists) perform nose surgery, hair transplant surgery, and facial plastic surgery; ophthalmologist (eye specialists) do eyelid surgery; and specially trained dermatologists do dermabrasion, laser skin surgery, and more recently, liposuction.
There are also boards other than the American Board of Plastic Surgery, which provide certification for other surgeons who perform cosmetic surgery. A few of the boards, which are not certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), include:
- Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
- Oculoplastic Surgery
- Dermatological Surgery
- Cosmetic Surgery
- Oral and Maxillofacial Cosmetic Surgery
- Liposuction Surgery
Simply being “board certified” can have a variety of meanings. By knowing exactly which board has certified your surgeon, and whether or not the American Board of Medical Specialties recognizes that board, you will better understand your surgeon’s training and qualifications. You may call the ABMS 1-800-776-2378 to see if the American Board of Plastic Surgery certifies your surgeon. Give them the name of your physician or surgeon and they will tell you if and when he or she has certified by one of the ABMS recognized boards.
You can also find the names of board certified plastic surgeons, listed by state and city, in the Directory of Medical Specialists, published by Marquis Who’s Who, and available in most public libraries. You may also refer to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons for this information or go to
Keys to Finding a Plastic Surgeon for YOU
Training and certification are important but are not the only things you should consider when choosing a plastic surgeon. Your final choice should be based upon many factors. Training, certification, experience, ability, and personality are all-important. Get to know your surgeon.
- Is he/she honest?
- Are her/his credentials and certification legitimate?
- How experienced is she/he?
- Does he/she care about you as a person or is he/she selling plastic surgery?
- Do you get along?
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your ultimate decision is important. You deserve a well-trained, qualified, experienced and caring plastic surgeon.