What Does Board Certified Mean?

The Mission of The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. is to promote safe, ethical, efficacious plastic surgery to the public by maintaining high standards for the education, examination, certification and maintenance of certification of plastic surgeons as specialists and sub specialists.

The boards were founded by their respective specialties to protect the public by assessing and certifying doctors who meet specific educational, training and professional requirements.

Surgeons who fulfill the requirements of the Board and who are granted certification by the Board are known as diplomats of The American Board of Plastic Surgery. This means that the surgeon has completed undergraduate college, medical school, an approved general surgery residency of at least three years, and an approved plastic surgery residency of an additional two to three years. Board certification in plastic surgery can then be obtained only after the candidate has been in plastic surgery practice for at least two years and has passed rigorous written and oral examinations administered by experienced plastic surgeons.

While doctors in specialties other than plastic surgery can and do perform cosmetic procedures, the doctors best qualified to perform these procedures are, the surgeons most thoroughly trained in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery procedures—plastic surgeons. There are no regulations that prevent doctors who are not plastic surgeons from taking a course lasting a few days or even a few hours and then advertising themselves as “cosmetic surgeons.” Because doctors trained in non-surgical specialties like dermatology or internal medicine can legally (under state medical board rules and regulations) perform surgical procedures, consumers must be aware of the differences in qualification.

How Do I Know If a Doctor Is Board Certified?

  • Anyone can check the certification standing of a medical professional by going to the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) at ABMS.org or by calling the organization directly at 1-866-ASK-ABMS (275-2267). The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is a specialty division of the ABMS, one of 24 recognized specialty boards.
  • Memberships in a professional society is another strong indicator of a surgeon’s qualifications. There are 2 well known societies:
    American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)
    American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS)
  • Accredited Facilities is a crucial especially when choosing a physician with a private practice who operates in a private office. The private office should be at the same standard as a traditional hospital’s operating room. You should check to see if the facility is accredited by an independent organization such as AAAASF, JCAHO, Medicare, or AAAHC. Accreditation ensures that certain basic operating room criteria are met and that the facility meets standards of staffing, licensing, certification, and equipment.
  • Ensure your doctor has Hospital Privileges. In order to achieve this status, a doctor has to formally apply to the hospital. The hospital requires that the physician submit medical and licensure data, as well as prove their ability and training in the medical procedures of their specialty.
  • Since most cosmetic surgery procedures are performed in office-based or independent surgical facilities, you may find doctors without hospital privileges doing a procedure in a non-hospital setting. Certain off-site surgical accreditation organizations (such as AAAASF) require hospital privileges as part of their criteria for approval. If you are unsure of a physician’s hospital status for any procedure you are considering, ask for a copy of his or her “hospital privileges” report.