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I thought a Board Certified Reconstructive Surgeon was ‘it’ when it came to...


I thought a Board Certified Reconstructive Surgeon was ‘it’ when it came to credentials. Yet a surgeon I know with these credentials is not on the ASAPS site. What is the distinction?


Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is, indeed, the "gold standard" of training and qualifications to perform all types of plastic surgery, both reconstructive and aesthetic (cosmetic). A surgeon with this credential has undergone a minimum of 5 years of surgical training (following medical school), including an approved plastic surgery residency.

Membership in the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) is reserved for those ABPS-certified surgeons who have demonstrated special interest in cosmetic surgery. A plastic surgeon must first be invited to become a member on the basis of his or her reputation among other qualified ASAPS members. Then he or she must provide documentation of major cosmetic surgical cases performed during a 12-month period, meet requirements for continuing education in current cosmetic surgical techniques and abide by a strict code of ethics. These high standards make ASAPS membership a valued and respected privilege for a select group of board-certified plastic surgeons who specialize in cosmetic surgery of the face and body. Only about one-quarter of all board-certified plastic surgeons have met these membership requirements.



When choosing a plastic surgeon it is imperative to select a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Often, plastic surgeons who perform a great deal of aesthetic or cosmetic surgery will also be members of ASAPS.

Selecting a plastic surgeon should always start with board certification but it doesn't end there.


Choosing Your Surgeon

There is endless information about plastic surgery available online, some of it helpful, some of it hogwash. Many patients learn about treatment options and narrow their search for a plastic surgeon with the help of their computer. And then they make one or two or more appointments, and on the basis of these encounters decide on a surgeon. Some patients already have a particular plastic surgeon in mind, based on the recommendation of satisfied patients or the surgeon's reputation.

Regardless of how you decide who you see, ask yourself the following questions after your consultation appointment(s):

  • Is this surgeon qualified to perform the surgery I am considering?
  • Do I like this person? Will I enjoy seeing them over the course of my surgery and recovery?
  • Was my complete medical history taken and examined in detail?
  • Did this physician truly listen to me as I explained my thoughts about the improvement I am seeking?
  • Does this physician share my aesthetic sensibility? Do they understand me and are they able to provide exactly what I am looking for?
  • Was I provided with a thorough understanding of all options available (both surgical and non-surgical)?
  • Was I shown photographic examples of surgical outcomes that give me confidence?
  • Was the office staff professional, friendly and accommodating?
  • Was I pressured in any way to proceed with surgery?

Listen to what your heart and your gut tell you when you are evaluating your consultation experience. Only move forward if you can do so with confidence about the experience you expect to have in a given plastic surgery practice, and about your ultimate outcome as a surgical patient.

Your experience with the consultation process is a good indication of what you are likely to receive as a surgical patient in any practice. If the process is well-organized and enjoyable, the staff is respectful and efficient, and the physician takes adequate time to understand your individual needs and communicates effectively, then you have a very high likelihood of being treated in a similar fashion if you become a surgical patient of that practice. If the process is disorganized or rushed, if the staff is discourteous or unprofessional, or if the physician does not give you confidence that your needs will be met, then don't expect things to get any better once you are a surgical patient.


You must be absolutely certain that your plastic surgeon's aesthetic sensibility matches your aesthetic goals. I have a very particular aesthetic vision, and I do not pretend to be the plastic surgeon for everybody. I strive to produce surgical results that are natural-appearing, results that do not advertise a trip to the operating room. For example, I do not perform breast augmentation for patients that are seeking an overly large and distinctly `done' breast appearance. And I have a particular distaste for cheek implants, as I think they rarely produce natural-appearing cheek contours, and instead prefer to enhance facial volume by means of structural fat grafting. Make sure that your plastic surgeon's philosophy and preferred approaches are consistent with the goals that you have in mind.

Adequate communication is obviously invaluable, and you should be able to communicate clearly and easily not only with your doctor, but also with your doctor's staff. Over the course of preparing for and recovering from aesthetic surgery, your doctor's staff will have an important and active role. Make sure that your interaction with the staff gives you confidence that you will receive the care and attention that you expect, and deserve, postoperatively.


What Does Board Certification Mean? – Board Certification means that you are a member of the 24 Boards credited by the Board of Medical Specialties of Plastic Surgery. There are many individuals that claim they are cosmetic or plastic surgeons, but one should seek out a surgeon who is a member of the American Board of Plastic Surgery who has undergone all the training and credentialing as well as the 2-Step Board Certification by passing a comprehensive written and oral exam. This will optimally give you a quality plastic surgeon that can help you in both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.


There are 24 Board recognized by the Board of Medical Specialties (such as Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, OBGYN, and Plastic Surgery is one of them).  Not all Board Certified Plastic Surgeons have an interest in Aesthetic (Cosmetic) Surgery.  Some do mostly hand surgery, or microsurgery, or craniofacial surgery.  There are also many people who call themselves Plastic Surgeons who have not had any training.  Mostly this group calls themselves cosmetic surgeons.  

Of the 7 thousand Board certified Plastic Surgeons, there are only about 2 thousand that are members of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).  All of the members of ASAPS have to be Board Certified in Plastic Surgery, and they have to be well recognized by their peers as being recommended for the society, and they have to do a large portion of their practice in Aesthetic (cosmetic) surgery. 

So if you are looking for the best of the Aesthetic Surgeons, you should find someone that is listed in the roster for ASAPS and you KNOW that they are also board certified and they do a lot of cosmetic surgery.  

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