A lot is made of board certification in medicine, and especially in plastic surgery. But what does board certification even mean? Boards are organizations that develop educational and professional standards for physician specialists. The “parent” board is the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and it oversees the 24 medical-specialty member boards (Plastic Surgery, Dermatology, Radiology, OBGYN, etc.). To be “board certified” means that the physician has met the criteria of the medical-specialty board and is a “specialist” in that particular field. Currently any physician can perform cosmetic surgery procedures without the need to be “board-certified”. For that matter, I could perform neurosurgery if I could find someone who would let me! Which I never will.
Board certification means the physician has gone the extra mile in their training, and has attained a certain level of expertise in that specialty. Where things get confusing for the public, is that there are currently three boards out there “certifying” cosmetic surgeons: The American Board of Plastic Surgery, The American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only one of the three that is recognized by the ABMS.
Bored yet? I didn’t think so. How did I know that? Because THIS is the stuff YOU need to know. If the entire world is a board, do they all carry the same credibility when selecting a physician? I will break it down for you and let you decide…
To be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a physician must have completed a minimum of 6 years of surgical training, of which 2 to 3 of those years are spent in plastic surgery alone. They also have to pass both a written and oral examination.
Only physicians certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery may become members of the American Society of Plastic Surgery, which is why I mentioned earlier that all plastic surgeons are cosmetic surgeons, but not all cosmetic surgeons are plastic surgeons!
To be certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, a physician must be board certified in either Otolaryngology (ENT: Ears Nose and Throat), have a minimum of 5 years of surgical training or plastic surgery, and had 100 operative reports accepted by a peer-review committee. They also have to pass a written and oral examination.
To be certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, a physician must be certified in one of many medical specialties (OBGYN, Radiology, Anesthesiology, or Oral Surgery for example), completed 300 Category 1 CME Credits in Cosmetic Surgery (equals 300 hours of training - about 6 weeks), and passed a written and oral examination.
Being a surgeon involves a lot more than knowing which end of a scalpel to hold. It involves technical skills and judgment, which is not easily mastered in a matter of hours or weeks. It is also my opinion that board certification is only a start, and not an end point.