Not All Board Certifications Are Created Equal

You may be surprised to find out that not all surgeons who advertise themselves as a “board certified” have the same level of training. A board-certified plastic surgeon, certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), has completed years of hands-on training by experts in the field and demonstrated mastery of their specialty through oral and written examinations.  At the completion of their training, they will have performed hundreds of surgeries like the one you are considering. Additionally, some board certifications can be bought while others are earned. Those who earn the board certifications are truly trained in the field, as opposed to those who are not truly trained but advertise as “Board Certified”. Taking the time to check and verify a board membership is definitely worth the effort and will help ensure that the doctor meets at least a minimum expertise.

What does it mean to be “board certified,” and is it really that important?

Once physicians complete medical school, they embark on a residency program in the specialty of their choosing. Residency programs consist of multiple years of hands-on training during which the physicians are guided by experts in the specialty with extensive experience.  After completion of these years of training, the residents are then eligible to take a rigorous examination that allows them to demonstrate their expertise in their chosen specialty.  Only after they have completed the years of hands-on training and passed their exams are doctors then able to advertise themselves as “board certified” in their chosen specialty. Additionally, to maintain their board certification, surgeons must engage in continuing education activities, so you know that they are constantly learning and improving in their practice.

The bigger organization that accredits and oversees the individual specialty organizations is the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).  The ABMS determines which programs are of sufficient rigor to guarantee proficiency in a particular specialty.  For patients considering cosmetic surgeries, the only ABMS-recognized board certification is American Board of Plastic Surgery. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is not recognized by the American Board of of Medical Specialties.

So, what does this mean for you? If your physician is not “board certified,”by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, there is no guarantee that they have completed extensive hands-on training in their field or have been able to demonstrate proficiency in the requirements of their specialty.  The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is not American Board of of Medical Specialties recognized. In fact, in many states, physicians who have not completed a residency at all can practice medicine, even performing cosmetic procedures.  But do you want a “cosmetic surgeon” who has not had years of hands-on guidance and demonstrated mastery to perform surgery on you? Unlikely. But, unfortunately, not all patients are knowledgeable about accrediting organizations, and some doctors are happy to take advantage of this.

So how do I know if my plastic surgeon is really board-certified?

Fortunately, there are a couple of questions you can ask to protect yourself:

  • Ask your physician about their board certification. For cosmetic surgery, you want an American Board of Plastic Surgery board-certified surgeon. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
  • Ask the doctor if they have privileges at the local hospitals should you have complications from your procedure. While most procedures are performed in stand-alone surgery centers or even in the office, your surgeon should be able to treat you if you were to be admitted to a local hospital with complications.  Physicians who are not board-certified are not given hospital privileges and would be unable to treat you.

When you are considering plastic surgery, don’t risk your health and aesthetic outcome to a surgeon who doesn’t have the highest level of training! Call 540.371.7730 to schedule your personal consultation today, and know that you will be treated by experts!