Board Certified Plastic Surgeons

Only surgeons can perform surgery, right?

Wrong! In fact, it wasn’t too long ago when the local barber performed surgeries. After your haircut and shave, the barber would sprinkle some witch hazel on his hands and removed your kidney stones-- all in the same sitting.

That didn’t last long, especially after a few customers never left the barber’s chair. So, the public consensus became “let trained surgeons do the surgeries.” And so for a short time they did.

Even when plastic surgery became popular, it was expected that “only plastic surgeons would perform plastic surgery.” And at first they did too! Today, any physician can perform surgery, if he/she has an office operating room.

No longer just for the rich and famous.

Since the early 90’s, cosmetic surgery has seen an unprecedented explosion in popularity. Conservatively, over 5 million cosmetic procedures a year are performed in the U.S. alone.

This boom, declining insurance reimbursements and the uncertainty of healthcare changes has been the motivation for many different types of physicians to seek and advertise their qualifications as plastic or cosmetic surgeons whether they truly are qualified or not.

It’s not easy to identify qualified plastic surgeons.

In most states there are no laws preventing physicians from calling themselves or operating as plastic surgeons. There is nothing stopping them from performing surgical procedures—even though they may have no formal training in plastic surgery in their own operating rooms.

In fact, in every state, any medical school graduate who passed a state board exam can legally perform any type of cosmetic or reconstructive surgery, no matter how intricate. So, the search for a qualified plastic surgeon isn’t very easy.

Don’t think that just because you see the term “board certified” behind a physician’s name, your search is over. Such an inquiry is complicated and can be very misleading.

Don’t let your fingers do the walking here.

In most telephone directories of the major cities in the U.S., less than two-thirds of the physicians listed as “plastic surgeons” are actually certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This board (ABPS) is the only one that counts— it signifies your surgeon’s true credentials, training, abilities and experience.

Of the remaining third of the phone book listings, some of the physicians may have formal training in cosmetic procedures, or they may be “certified” in related specialties. But many of these physicians may not have any formal training of any kind in cosmetic surgery.

Unfortunately, telephone directories in most states do not have the authority to prevent physicians from listing themselves in any category they choose. Doctors are not required to provide proof of board certification and the physicians can self-designate their specialty.

There are literally over a hundred “boards” that all sound impressive.

According to the American Board of Medical Specialties, the authentic overseer of the many specialty boards that exist in medicine, there are now hundreds of so-called impressive-sounding “boards”— most of them meaningless, existing only to promote their own members.

In 1989, the U.S. Subcommittee on Cosmetic Surgery Regulation investigated such misrepresentations and concluded that, “… anyone can create a board, call itself anything, and issue certificates suitable for framing.”

Since then, little has changed. More and more of these misleading boards are created daily and there is still no legislation preventing their formation.

Examples of some actual self-designated boards uncovered by the American Board of Medical Specialties:

• American Board of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons
• American Board of Cosmetic Plastic Surgery
• American Board of Cosmetic Surgery
• American Board of Cosmetic Breast Surgery
• American Board of International Cosmetic and Plastic Facial Reconstructive Standards

And so on. All very impressive, all very patriotic with the use of “American,” all using the appropriate medical terms you want to see— but all smoke and mirrors with no guarantee of any kind of the qualifications of its members.

A physician and surgeon who is “board certified” by The American Board of Plastic Surgery will have completed all the following requirements:

Certification by The American Board of Plastic Surgery

1. Graduation from an accredited medical school

2. Five years of training in a board-approved surgical residency program

3. Completion of an American Board of medical specialties approved plastic surgery training program.

4. Peer recommendations for ABPS eligibility

5. Successful passage of a comprehensive written examination

6. Submission of a detailed list of all operations performed in their second year of practice scrutinized by the ABPS

7. Successfully passage of a 3-day oral exam

8. Practice of the ethical standards promoted by the ABPS

So, the term “ board certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery” is very significant. The term “board certified” by itself may mean absolutely nothing.

If you don’t mind letting your soon-to-be secret out, perhaps the best way to find a qualified plastic surgeon is by personal recommendation. A friend or neighbor who had a successful cosmetic procedure could be your best, most reliable source for a plastic surgeon you may choose. You’ll hear a personal testament to his/her ability and commitment to your best success.

The more prepared you are and the more questions you ask, the better chances you have for a safe and successful cosmetic surgery experience.