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Thinking About Cosmetic Plastic Surgery? Learn the Truth About Your Surgeon’s Board Certification

When I got my ABPS Board Certification, I wanted to walk around with it taped to my forehead. It’s that hard to get. So, why does that matter to you?

The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is the only accredited board for plastic surgery in the United States.

One of your early and most important decisions about having plastic surgery is the obvious: Who is going to do your surgery? Who is it that, above all others, you trust enough to understand your goals, listen to your fears, perform the procedures competently with the best results possible, and stick with you through thick and thin during your recovery period, no matter what?

Ever thought of it this way? You should.

With the popularity of plastic surgery, there recently has been an increase in untrained physicians performing plastic surgical procedures. Interestingly, it is not illegal for a licensed physician to perform any procedure, regardless of whether they were properly trained. The media has featured surgeons performing plastic surgical procedures on various TV shows as presumed experts, without verifying credentials, contributing to mass confusion, and putting patients at increased risk of dangerous situations they may never be aware of.

We are learning to ask if a plastic surgeon is “board certified,” but even that can be confusing because one could answer “yes” if they are certified by another specialty board or a non-accredited board. There are a number of “boards” out there which are not accredited, some of which have very impressive and important sounding names which easily fool the patient into thinking that certain training and qualifications are present when in fact they are not. And, by the way, there is no such thing as the “Oprah Board.”

All accredited medical boards are listed on the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) website (abms.org). You can check there for any specialty to see if your doctor’s Board is accredited. And, by the way, did I mention –

The American Board of Plastic Surgery (abplsurg.org) is the only accredited board for plastic surgery in the United States.

There really are such things as “weekend courses” or other reduced training programs that award a “board” of some type. In the medical community, we sometimes joke about these “smorgasboards.” The training required, or lack thereof, can be a mystery. Fortunately, this is easily sorted out– If they do not measure up to the American Board of Medical Specialties rigorous standards, they are not accredited and are not listed on their site as an accredited board.

Surgeons certified by the ABPS are also members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) – famous for the “circle logo” (plasticsurgery.org).

So the question is not “Are you board certified?”

The question is “What Board?”

Hint: You should be able to find your surgeon by name on both the ABPS and the ASPS sites.

When you visit my office, if I forgot to tape my certificate to my forehead that morning you can ask me about my boards– I will be very impressed. Of COURSE then, like a kid with a great report card, I will then want to show you all the certificates, talk about the many years of training that went into achieving this milestone, how I traded my youth for it (ok, a little dramatic), etc. So be prepared!

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