Board Certification – What does it mean?
Many people are surprised to learn that any licensed medical doctor, regardless of training, can legally call him or herself a plastic surgeon with no specific training in that field. Many doctors listed in the yellow pages under the title of “Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery” have not completed an approved residency in plastic surgery. And some have the designation of “Board Certified” but their certification is not by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).
Established in 1933, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), a not-for-profit organization comprising 24 medical specialty Member Boards, is the pre-eminent entity overseeing the certification of physician specialists in the United States. The primary function of ABMS is to assist its Member Boards in developing and implementing educational and professional standards to evaluate and certify physician specialists.
While most people know to look for board-certified surgeons, many are still not aware that there have been an increasing number of “certification boards” launched that masquerade as legitimately recognized boards. California was one of the first states to pass legislation requiring that if a doctor advertises as “board-certified,” their advertising must specify which board is providing the certification. California initiated this legislation to protect the unsuspecting public from doctors and surgeons offering to perform cosmetic procedures without certification recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
When looking for a plastic surgeon, board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery should be your first and most basic criteria. It assures you that the doctor you’ve chosen has graduated from an accredited medical school and, after medical school, completed an approved residency program of at least six years and passed a certifying exam. While board certification does not guarantee you a great surgeon, it’s at least an indication that the surgeon has been appropriately trained for his specialty.