What’s the Significance of Board Certification in Plastic Surgery?

When you choose to undergo cosmetic surgery, board certification in plastic surgery is the most important credential your surgeon can have. This blog helps potential patients understand what it actually means to be a board-certified plastic surgeon and why it is so important.

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beautiful women looking side with both hands on her cheeks

When you’re ready to enhance your appearance with plastic surgery, the first step is to do your homework. You need to spend significant time and effort to find a plastic surgeon with experience in the type of surgery you want and one with qualifications you can trust. Researching surgeons in your area can be overwhelming, especially if you’re unsure what to look for. 

There are several criteria you should consider when narrowing down your list of potential plastic surgeons–with education and training at the top of the list. You want a surgeon with outstanding credentials, and deciphering what that means can often be confusing. Board certification in plastic surgery is the most important credential your surgeon can have, so we’re diving in to help you understand what it actually means to be a board-certified plastic surgeon and why it is so important.

The Difference Between Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery

While the terms “plastic surgery” and “cosmetic surgery” are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. 

Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery, while often performed for aesthetic reasons, is a surgical specialty dedicated to the reconstruction of face and body defects that occur due to congenital disorders, trauma, or disease. Plastic surgery and reconstructive surgery are the same and are designed to restore form and function to your body. Some plastic surgery procedures include breast reconstruction, scar revision, and congenital defect repairs. Some plastic surgeons may also choose to complete additional training specifically for cosmetic procedures, but it is not required for board certification. 

Cosmetic Surgery

The first thing to understand is that cosmetic and aesthetic surgery are the same. Cosmetic and aesthetic surgery can improve your features’ symmetry and balance, as they focus solely on enhancing your appearance. They are also considered elective procedures because they address parts of your body that already function correctly. 

What Does “Board Certification in Plastic Surgery” Mean?

When choosing a plastic surgeon, the most important thing to look for is if they are board certified in plastic surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). This is the only organization recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which is considered the “gold standard” in certification. ABMS assists the boards of 24 recognized medical specialties in developing and implementing standards to evaluate and certify physicians in those specialties.

Earning board certification is entirely voluntary, and not all doctors elect to pursue it. However, choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon means selecting a physician who has gone above and beyond the minimum requirements for licensure, as well as in their education, training, and commitment to continuing education in plastic surgery. 

How Does a Surgeon Earn Board Certification in Plastic Surgery?

To become board certified in plastic surgery, a physician must meet the following criteria:

  • Graduate from an accredited medical school.
  • Complete at least six years of surgical training after medical school, with at least three of those years in a plastic surgery residency program.
  • Pass rigorous written and oral exams.
  • Perform surgery in appropriately accredited surgical facilities. 
  • Commit to completing continuing education and periodic recertification requirements. 
  • Abide by a stringent code of ethics. 

An Explanation of Plastic Surgery Societies

There are a lot of similar acronyms describing the various plastic surgery societies, so we’ve compiled a list to help you keep them straight.

American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS)

As referenced above, the ABPS is the only board that can grant legitimate board certification. To see if the plastic surgeon you’re interested in is board certified, you can verify their standing on the ABPS website

American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) 

This association provides continuing medical education and advocates for patient safety with federal and state agencies. Surgeons who belong to the ASPS must be board certified by ABPS, so choosing a member of ASPS ensures that your surgeon has undergone the education and training required for board certification. 

American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) 

Another association whose members are plastic surgeons who focus on cosmetic procedures, ASAPS, also requires its members to be board certified. Additionally, ASAPS allows qualified plastic surgeons from outside the United States and Canada to become members of the international association.

Is a Board-Certified Cosmetic Surgeon the Same as a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon?

NO. There is no such thing as a board-certified cosmetic surgeon. Some doctors may advertise that they’re board-certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS). However, that doesn’t mean they’ve been trained in plastic surgery. The requirements to become board certified by ABCS are much less stringent, so much so that in 2018, the Medical Board of California voted unanimously to prohibit diplomates of ABCS from advertising themselves as board certified. 

Remember that any physician can legally perform cosmetic surgery, whether or not they have board certification and the associated specialized training and education.

Learn More About Plastic Surgery in Washington, D.C.

When searching for a plastic surgeon to perform your cosmetic procedure, take your time to find the best in the field. At DAVinci Plastic Surgery, our doctors fit the bill and then some. Dr. Davison is a triple board-certified surgeon, and Dr. Pinell is a double board-certified surgeon, so you can be sure you’re receiving the highest standard of experience, knowledge, and patient care. To schedule a consultation, call today at 202-966-9590 or fill out the online contact form.

Schedule Your Consultation at DAVinci Plastic Surgery

The initial consultation with your surgeon is critical! It should always be face to face with your surgeon, during which time he/she listens closely to your concerns. Dr. Davison and Dr. Pinell believe this time spent with you is critical to both you and him/her. It is during the consultation that your surgeon comes to fully understand your concerns, evaluates them correctly, and is then able to make the recommendations and develop the treatment plan that is right for you. Dr. Davison and Dr. Pinell invest the time to sit down and talk to you face to face.

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Washington D.C.

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