Have you ever heard plastic surgeons refer to themselves as board-certified plastic surgeons? Do you understand what ‘board certification’ means? 

Many people don’t consider plastic surgery procedures to be medically necessary. However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that these surgeries can completely change your life. If you’ve ever seen a plastic surgery procedure go wrong, you understand the impact of these procedures.

Unfortunately, these botched procedures result from working with an unqualified ‘cosmetic specialist.’  Today, many physicians without the necessary qualifications call themselves ‘plastic or cosmetic surgeons’ after taking a few weekend classes. Consulting with such physicians could be disastrous for you. Therefore, you need to understand what it means for a plastic surgeon to be board-certified and how this helps you. 

Who Is A Board-Certified Surgeon?

A board-certified plastic surgeon is a surgeon whose skills and mastery of the plastic surgery field have been recognized by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Currently, the ABPS is the only board that’s received the recognition of the  American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to certify physicians performing plastic surgery procedures.

To complete plastic surgery training, a plastic surgeon must undergo at least sixteen years of post-high school education. Some of the qualifications one must fulfill before becoming a fully trained plastic surgeon include:

  • A bachelor’s degree in a science major like chemistry and biology
  • A doctorate in medicine (MD)
  • Three years of training as a surgical resident
  • Three years of training as a plastic surgery resident

The above training gives you the necessary skills and experience to work as a plastic surgeon. In fact, after training as a surgical resident, physicians can start working in ‘cosmetic surgery.’ The additional three-year residency in plastic surgery is necessary if a physician wants to receive board certification.

After completing the three-year plastic surgery residency, a physician can try out for the board certification examinations. The examinations include an oral test and a written test. These tests evaluate a plastic surgeon’s knowledge, ethical beliefs, and the safety and effectiveness of their surgical approach during procedures. Plastic surgeons must prove they have the technical skill to perform body and facial procedures. They also must prove they have the skills to prevent and effectively handle emergencies that arise during procedures. 

After receiving board certification, plastic surgeons are responsible for maintaining their certified statuses. A board-certified cosmetic surgeon must only operate in accredited facilities. They must also continue their education and stay true to the plastic surgeons’ code of ethics.

Loopholes Commonly Used By Non-certified ‘Plastic Surgeons.’

Currently, no laws discourage doctors from operating as ‘plastic or cosmetic surgeons’ in most states. However, every once in a while, you’ll find cosmetic surgeons referring to themselves on their websites as ‘Board Certified by the State Medical Board,’ ‘Board-Certified,’ ‘Cosmetic Surgery Board Certified,’ etc.  

It would be best if you remembered that there are no other boards in the United States authorized to certify plastic surgeons except the ABPS. You should also note that non-certified ‘plastic surgeons’ aren’t allowed to refer to themselves as board-certified plastic surgeons. And neither do they have the authorization to use or print the ABPS symbol on any of their assets. 

There are other plastic surgeon organizations in the country. However, without the recognition of the ABMS, they can’t award board certification to plastic surgeons. They only have the authority to train plastic surgeons. Since they’re reputable organizations, many plastic surgeons use their certificates to pass off as board-certified plastic surgeons. They include

State Medical Board: Responsible for granting medical licenses. This board doesn’t grant board certifications.

American Board of Cosmetic Surgery: Has yet to be recognized by the ABMS

American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: Has the approval to offer facial and neck procedures but can’t grant any recognized board certification.

Definitions To Keep In Mind

When vetting potential plastic surgeons, you’re likely to get confused by the terms used by plastic surgeons to describe their certifications. So, below are the definitions and the meanings of these terms.

  • Board Certification In Plastic Surgery: It’s a certificate that the accredited ABPS only grants. For plastic surgeons to receive this certification, they have to complete their three-year plastic surgery residency and pass the oral and written exams. 
  • Board Certified Plastic Surgeon: Physicians who’ve received board certification from the ABPS. 
  • Board Certified: The physician has received board certification from a ‘board’ that hasn’t received the recognition of the ABMS. 

So, before you’ve settled on a plastic surgeon, ensure you ask them questions regarding their certification status. It’s not easy to earn a certificate from the American Board of Plastic Surgeons. Therefore, you should look for a board-certified plastic surgeon since you’re guaranteed they’re highly educated and skilled.