Board certification: a vital element when choosing your plastic surgeon

You are considering a plastic surgery procedure. How do you select your doctor? There are many to choose from but who is the right one? You want a surgeon with the skills and training to help achieve your aesthetic goals. Competency in plastic surgery requires a special combination of medical knowledge, surgical judgment, technical expertise, ethics, and interpersonal skills.

What kind of a surgeon should I be looking for?

When considering a cosmetic procedure, patients are encouraged to seek a physician who is certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery. The ABPS is the only board that provides certification in plastic surgery of the face and of the entire body, the only recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The ABMS is expressly designed to provide public protection through quality control in medical education. Certification by The American Board of Plastic Surgery is “The Gold Standard” for plastic surgeons.

So how does a doctor become board certified? The path to follow is long and demanding. It includes the following stages:

  • receiving an undergraduate degree
  • successfully graduating from medical school as an MD or DO
  • completing at least five years of postgraduate surgical training
  • spending the last two to three of those years in a plastic surgery residency program
  • completing the plastic surgery residency
  • starting practice as a board-eligible plastic surgeon
  • after one year in practice taking a comprehensive written exam
  • after passing the written exam and another year of practice taking an oral board examination in plastic surgery

For the oral examination the doctor will prepare case presentations based upon the surgery he has performed in his own practice. The doctor is questioned by a panel of board certified plastic surgeons to prove he has the knowledge, judgment, skills and decision making processes to properly and safely care for patients. The process is not finished once the doctor is granted board certification. He must obtain re-certification every 10 years to make sure he will continue providing excellent care for his patients.

Potential Confusion Regarding Board Certification

The intent of the board certification process is to provide assurance that a certified medical specialist has successfully completed an approved educational program and an examination designed to ensure they possess the knowledge and skill necessary to provide high quality patient care in that specialty.

Unfortunately as aesthetic procedures are nowadays highly popular, there is also a great number of physicians who provide cosmetic treatments and surgeries without appropriate training or knowledge. For example:

  • gynecologists are performing liposuction
  • dentists are performing breast augmentation
  • emergency medicine physicians are performing laser treatments
  • family physicians are performing cosmetic Botox treatments

Advertisements for cosmetic procedures often state that the doctor is ‘board certified’. The natural inclination is to assume that he/she must therefore be qualified to perform these procedures. These claims of board certification are not usually false, but are certainly misleading. These doctors may very well be ‘board certified’ – by their own specialty board, but not by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

So, as a prospective patient seeking plastic surgery, how do you separate the most qualified physicians from the others? Ask if your doctor is certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery, the only board which presides over comprehensive plastic surgery of the face and body.

Advice for patients

Choosing to have plastic surgery is an important decision — selecting a plastic surgeon is just as important. Patients must become their own advocates and assume the responsibility of ensuring the doctor they chose is qualified to perform the procedure they desire. Therefore they should consider the following advices:

  • Make certain your doctor is certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery
  • Search for members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons: they are also certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery
  • Search for members of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Membership in The ASAPS remains an exclusive privilege for those board certified plastic surgeons who concentrate their practices in performing cosmetic plastic surgery of the face and body.
  • Make sure your surgeon has privileges at a local hospital to perform the same procedures as in his own practice.

Board certification is a tremendous accomplishment, and all plastic surgeons take pride in knowing that they have successfully completed a rigorous training and examination process to earn the title, Diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. With that comes the responsibility to provide quality patient care, safely and successfully. Good credentials can’t guarantee a successful outcome; but, they can significantly increase the likelihood of it. For any further questions or concerns you can contact Dr. Kenneth Dembny a well known ABPS-certified surgeon from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.