It is recommended in many places that consumers interested in plastic surgery should check board certification of their doctor. I am often asked about board certification, which I think is great! The more informed my patients are, the better off we all are. I have been Board Certified in Plastic Surgery since 2000, and fulfilled Maintenance of Certification last year. In the field of cosmetic and plastic surgery, board certification is a particularly confusing issue because there are so many boards, some real and some not really real. The importance is in dissecting out who are the real plastic surgeons, and who are not.

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is the umbrella organization for all recognized boards that fulfill the highest level of requirements. The American Board of Plastic Surgery is one of the 24 boards recognized by the ABMS, including among its ranks The American Boards of Surgery, Internal Medicine and Dermatology. There is no authorized board of cosmetic medicine or cosmetic surgery. There is no subspecialty board of facial plastic surgery recognized by the ABMS, but there is one of Otolaryngology, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Family Medicine, and Oral Surgery similarly do not have specific board certification in the subspecialty of Plastic Surgery.

Certification by an ABMS Member Board involves a rigorous process of testing and peer evaluation designed by specialists in the area of interest. A new gold standard for re-certification has been adopted by the ABMS, requiring passing of a Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program. MOC uses evidence-based guidelines and national standards and best practices in combination with continuing medical education (CME) to ensure the best possible health care delivery to patients. If your physician says that he/she is board-certified in Plastic Surgery, make sure it means certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Only Board Certified Plastic Surgeons are authorized by the ABMS to perform plastic surgery procedures from head to toe. Truth in advertising laws are being passed by states throughout the country to assure that patients have access to true credentialing information.

So when you ask about board certification in Plastic Surgery, this is what it means. With the answer of “Yes, I am board-certified in Plastic Surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery,” it means you are meeting with a physician who has passed a comprehensive written examination; who has passed an oral examination assessing knowledge about patient care and outcomes of their own patients; and for many of those in practice for greater than 10 years, who has passed a MOC examination assuring maintenance of a high level of education and best practices for patients since first getting board certified. Board Certification is therefore as important as has been reported: it provides the “gold seal of approval” for plastic surgeons.

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