Credentials: Training and Certification of Plastic Surgeons

Often portrayed as a "turf battle," the issue of training and credentials in plastic surgery is actually an issue of public safety about which responsible doctors are necessarily concerned. Would you want your plastic surgery performed by someone who has never had any formal surgical training? It can easily happen ...

  • There are many physicians today practicing plastic surgery who have received their formal training in another specialty -- often a non-surgical specialty. These doctors may call themselves plastic surgeons, but they may not be trained in plastic surgery.
  • Some physicians without plastic surgery training, as well as trained and qualified plastic surgeons, perform cosmetic surgery in their offices. The difference is that a board-certified plastic surgeon will also have privileges to perform these procedures at an accredited hospital.
  • When we talk about a "board-certified plastic surgeon," we mean one who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), the only board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to certify physicians in the full range of plastic and reconstructive procedures. To be certified by the ABPS, a physician must have at least five years of approved surgical training, including a residency in plastic surgery. He or she must also pass a comprehensive written and oral exams in plastic surgery.
  • Many physicians who call themselves "facial plastic surgeons" are trained in otolaryngology, a surgical specialty which includes training in plastic surgery of the head and neck. Physicians who call themselves "cosmetic surgeons" could be trained in any specialty, including a non-surgical specialty, because anyone who has a medical license can legally call him/herself a surgeon even if they have no formal surgical training.
  • Membership in the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery is by invitation only and is limited to ABPS-certified surgeons who demonstrate wide experience in the major aesthetic surgical procedures.
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