How to Verify Credentials of a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

Finding the right surgeon to perform your procedure is probably the most important factor of having plastic surgery. After all, the surgeon is the one that does the work and is responsible for your aesthetic outcome. Without the surgeon, there would be no surgery. However, selecting a skilled plastic surgeon to perform your procedure can be an extremely nerve-racking ordeal. There appears to be a never-ending supply of available surgeons all proclaiming their expertise. It can be a very frustrating experience at times. Many say go to only a "Board Certified Plastic Surgeon." While this is important, it is not the end all, be all of plastic surgery.


Board Certification & What It Means

Oftentimes, when you hear "board certified" in this field, it means being certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC).

According to the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the ABMS "is an organization of 24 approved medical specialty boards. The ABMS serves to coordinate the activities of its Member Boards and to provide information to the public, the government, the profession and its members concerning issues involving specialization and certification of medical specialists."

Board certification assures that a surgeon has completed his or her residency in their specialized field, has practiced their medical specialty for the minimum amount of years, and has taken oral and written exams issued by the respective board to ensure that they are knowledgeable in their field. However, there are doctors who advertise "board certified" on their website but do not say in what. Some may be misleading and may very well have a certification in pathology, and not plastic surgery. Once you know how to properly select a plastic surgeon, be sure to verify their skills and information.

The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS)

"By choosing a plastic surgeon who is certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc., you can be assured that the doctor has:

  • graduated from an accredited medical school.

  • has completed at least five years of additional training as a resident surgeon.

  • This includes a minimum three-year residency in an accredited general surgery program.

  • and a minimum two-year residency in plastic surgery.

  • To become certified, the doctor then must successfully complete comprehensive written and oral exams.

  • Board Certification is a voluntary process.

It {the ABPS] is the only ABMS Board which certifies in the full spectrum of the entire specialty of plastic surgery.

"Starting January 2002, all certifications will be valid for a period of 10 years. Requirements for recertification include:

  • A valid primary certificate from The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc

  • Completion of the Board's Application for Recertification and required fees.

  • A valid, registered, full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in every state, territory, or possession of the United States or by a Canadian province, or location in which the Diplomate currently is licensed to practice.

  • Verification of professionalism by the completion of an evaluation form of the Diplomate's character and satisfactory performance from the Chief of Surgery or Chief of Staff at the hospitals where the Diplomate practices.

  • Evidence of current valid hospital appointments.

  • Evidence of accreditation of non-hospital surgical facilities at which the diplomate operates

  • Diplomates must provide evidence of successful completion of at least 150 hours of CME programs during the three years preceding the Application for Recertification.

  • electronically submit a surgical case list covering a six-month period.

  • Diplomates must also successfully complete a practice-oriented multiple-choice computer based examination."

The ABPS does not recognize the term, "board eligible.".


The American Board of Plastic Surgery
Seven Penn Center, Suite 400
1635 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2204
(215) 587-9322
FAX (215) 587-9622

The American Board of Surgery (ABS)

The ABS is an independent, non-profit organization with worldwide recognition. It is one of the twenty-four certifying boards that are members of the American Board of Medical Specialties. To be certified by the ABS a physician must have:

  • Graduated from an accredited medical school.

  • Completed of a surgical residency in an accredited program in the United States or Canada of at least five years duration after medical school.

  • Passed an extensive day-long written examination.

  • Passed a separate oral examination given by three teams of highly-qualified surgeons to assess the candidate's ability to handle all kinds of surgical problems.

Certification lasts 10 years, after which he or she must pass testing and meet criteria to recertify. Beginning January 2002, all Diplomates must have accumulated 100 hours of CME during the two-year period prior to their application for recertification. Source:


American Board of Surgery, Inc.
1617 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Suite 860
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1847
Phone: (215) 568-4000
FAX: (215) 563-5718

Board Eligible: What Does It Mean?

Becoming certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) may take years to complete. Until then the ABMS does not recognize the term, "board eligible." Some surgeons may use this term to imply that they do meet the criteria to be eligible for examination and possible certification by a particular board, but have chosen not to take the exam and become certified.

If a surgeon does state that he is board eligible, ask for which board and proceed to ask details regarding the criteria pertaining to that particular board. For instance ask which undergraduate school they went to and what their major was, ask which accredited Medical School they attended and graduated from. Ask about their residency, their CME -- inquire about all the criteria which must be met to even be eligible to be considered for examination. Although the board still does not recognize the term, and you may say so, you will know if the surgeon has had the medical training and has continued his medical education over the years.

Professional Aesthetic Medicine Societies

These societies are not required to practice plastic surgery, nor do they mean that a surgeon is competent and has a skillful eye. Being a member of either of the societies listed below assures that the member meets their criteria for enrollment. They are thought of as prestigious and impressive, but not necessary.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)

"The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) comprises 97% of all physicians certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). In order to be a member of ASPS, plastic surgeons must be certified by the ABPS (in Canada by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and/or the Corporation Professionelle des Medicins du Quebec). ABPS certified surgeons have met the following criteria:

  • Be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or, in Canada, by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

  • Graduation from an accredited medical school

  • Five years of residency (usually three years of general surgery followed by two years of plastic surgery residency

  • Two years of post-residency practice

  • Pass comprehensive oral and written exams

  • complete a total of 150 CME credit hours within every 2-year period to remain a member of the ASPS

Unlike other physicians, ASPS members are qualified to perform cosmetic and reconstructive surgical procedures - everything from liposuction to intricate reconstructive microsurgery. And remember: just because a surgeon says he or she is board-certified, does not mean they are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Look for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons logo when choosing a plastic surgeon." source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation
444 E. Algonquin Rd.
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
1-888-4-PLASTIC (1-888-475-2784)

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The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS)

This is an organization, which only accepts cosmetic plastic surgeons certified by either the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or the Royal College of Physicians Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC). The ASAPS is not a board, rather a society, which requires that their members uphold a strict and thorough professional code of conduct and possess the extensive training and required certifications. In order to be a member of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), surgeons must

  • "Be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or, in Canada, by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada;

  • Be in at least the third year of active practice following board certification;

  • Participate in accredited Continuing Medical Education (CME) to stay current with developments in the field of cosmetic plastic surgery;

  • Document the performance of a significant number and variety of cosmetic surgical cases to demonstrate wide experience;

  • Be sponsored by two ASAPS-member plastic surgeons to help ensure that the applicant's professional reputation meets the high standards required by ASAPS; and

  • Adhere to current ethical standards for professional conduct as outlined in the Code of Ethics observed by all ASAPS-member surgeons." source:


American Society fof Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
36 West 44th Street, Suite 630
New York, New York 10036
Tel. 212-921-0500
Fax 212-921-0011

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American College of Surgeons (ACS/FACS)

"The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational association of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to improve the quality of care for the surgical patient by setting high standards for surgical education and practice.

Members of the American College of Surgeons are referred to as "Fellows." The letters FACS (Fellow, American College of Surgeons) after a surgeon's name mean that the surgeon's education and training, professional qualifications, surgical competence, and ethical conduct have passed a rigorous evaluation, and have been found to be consistent with the high standards established and demanded by the College.

Applicants for Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons are required to have the following qualifications:

  • Graduation from a medical school acceptable to the American College of Surgeons.

  • Certification by an American Surgical Specialty Board which is a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties and which is appropriate to the applicant's specialty practice, or an appropriate specialty certification by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

  • A full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in their respective state or province.

  • One year of surgical practice after completion of all formal training. Additional practice time may be required if the practice situation and/or geographic location changes. Exceptions may be granted by the Member Services Liaison Committee.

  • A current appointment on the surgical staff of the applicant's primary hospital with no reportable action pending which could adversely affect staff privileges at that or any other health care facility.

  • A current practice that establishes the applicant as a specialist in surgery. The degree to which a practice must be restricted to the specialty is to be determined by a responsible College Credentials Committee. The limitation of an applicant's practice to the scope of the designated specialty is an important consideration.

  • Interest in pursuing professional excellence both as an individual surgeon and a member of the surgical community. Such interest may be evidenced by membership in local, regional, and national surgical specialty societies; participation in teaching programs and on hospital committees; continuing medical education through attendance at professional meetings, courses, and seminars.

  • Ethical fitness as well as professional proficiency as determined by an appropriate College Credentials Committee. This determination is based upon information obtained from Fellows who were consulted as references and from other sources. source:


American College of Surgeons
633 N. Saint St.
Chicago, Illinois 60611-3211
Telephone: (312) 202-5000
Fax (312) 202-5001

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State Medical Licensure

State licensure is very important. Your surgeon must hold a valid medical license for the state in which he performs your procedure. These licenses may be a Medical Doctor (M.D.) which is an allopathic physician or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). which is an osteopathic physician. Most plastic surgeons are medical doctors, but sometimes you may find one that is an Osteopathic doctor. Many feel that only M.D.'s should practice plastic surgery. We have provided information on both for your convenience.

There are many similarities in being an M.D. or a D.O.:

  • "Applicants to both D.O. and M.D. colleges typically have a four-year undergraduate degree with an emphasis on scientific courses.

  • Both D.O.s and M.D.s complete four years of basic medical education.

  • After medical school, both D.O.s and M.D.s can choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine -- such as psychiatry, surgery or obstetrics -- after completing a residency program which requires an additional two to six years of training.

  • Both D.O.s and M.D.s must pass comparable state licensing examinations.

  • D.O.s and M.D.s both practice in fully accredited and licensed health care facilities.

  • D.O.s comprise a separate, yet equal branch of American medical care. Together, D.O.s and M.D.s enhance the state of care available in America."

  • However, "D.O.s receive extra training in the musculoskeletal system -- your body's interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones that make up two-thirds of its body mass." source: American Osteopathic Association.

Osteopathic physicians usually become primary care physicians, however some may choose to be dermatologists or plastic surgeons. D.O's are taught to focus on preventive health care and treat the body as a whole. The American Osteopathic Association has special requirements to achieve certification for specialty boards, such as Dermatology, Surgery and Anesthesiology.

Continued Medical Education (CME)

Many states require that a physician seek a minimum amount of hours before allowing a physician to renew their license. Check with your individual state's medical board for more information.

Professional Societies also require CME to maintain their membership. The American Board of Plastic Surgery requires at least 150 hours of CME during the three years preceding the recertification application to be considered for recertification.Even professional societies like the ASPS and the ASAPS require CME to maintain their memberships. Please see the relevant sections for more information.

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How to Find A Good Surgeon

Patient-to-patient referral is by far the best way to find an excellent surgeon. Although, beware as some of these individuals may work for the surgeons and even go as far as pretending to be a patient -- or they could in fact be a patient, but also work. If you tend to hear the same name repeatedly you may think that perhaps they are the best to go to -- and that may very well be so. But, you cannot count on this factor as the the media has a powerful edge. You should pay attention to the public message boards on the Internet as well as speak with real patients every chance you get. The voices of both satisfied and the unsatisfied patients are very loud.

Also, the mentality that just seeing a symbol or two on a surgeon's affiliations or memberships section doesn't mean that he is THE man (or woman for that matter) for you. These certifications and associations do not guarantee that the surgeon has an artistic eye nor does it imply that you will receive what you are seeking. Please use all of the information on this page, the next few sections and other websites to better determine what you may need, what you are looking for and just who is right for you -- period. If that surgeon turns out to be ABPS certified -- wonderful! If he or she has a membership in the ASPS or ASAPS, fantastic! If he or she does not, so be it as well. Just know that if your surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, you are guaranteed that he or she meets the strict criteria to remain certified with their organization.

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Communication is Key

Note: For simplicity's sake, whenever the word "he" is used in this document, this may mean either a male or female surgeon. Communication is a necessary key to having a good doctor-patient relationship. If you cannot communicate, he or she may not know what it is that you want or what your expectations are. Be sure that he is open to your desires and wishes as well as what he may believe is realistic. This is your body but your surgeon is the one who will be operating.

Also, please realize that you cannot expect to bring in a photo of another's breasts or nose and say, "make me look like this." There are definitely results that can be obtained but as a general rule, a surgeon can really only improve what you already have. If you want more fullness you will need augmentation. However, you should bring photos of what you like and don't like to help convey what your desires are. You shouldn't expect miracles but you should expect improvement. And you should definitely expect proper care, treatment and empathy. Remember that you are the paying client -- you essentially interview the surgeons for a job although this is more important as this is your health and well being.

Communication is a very important aspect of surgery. Please don't be afraid to speak up. Besides they do need your input. Go into a surgeon's office with an idea of what it is you want. Explain these desires to the surgeon then listen what he has to say about what he thinks he can achieve realistically.

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Where to Get Referrals For Qualified Surgeons

The Surgeon Referral Database

You may visit our own referral section for a listing of some of the best surgeons in your general area.

Public Message Boards and Support Forum

Ask Within the Medical Field

Ask around everywhere. Ask your general practitioner, if you have one, ask your gynecologist, your nurse or doctor friends, online -- everywhere. They have ears and know where you should and should not go if Cosmetic Plastic Surgery is your choice. Even ask around your gym or salon, people talk to their hair stylists about everything and many gush abut their surgeons.

Books & Directories

There are two reference books circulated by the American Board of Medical Specialties, these books are available in most public libraries dedicated to providing information and names of plastic surgeons who are certified by boards recognized by the ABMS only. They are listed by city and state...

  • Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists, published by Marquis' Who's Who; a four-volume compilation of physicians by specialty from the American Board of Medical Specialties. Most recent is the 29th edition, 1997. Alternatively, call the ABMS toll-free number, 1-800- 776-2378.

  • The Compendium of Certified Medical Specialists, published by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS)

Magazines and Television: Be Careful

Appearing in the media does not mean that a surgeon is a great one. There have been many surgeons that I cannot recommend who have appeared in documentaries, television shows, infomercials, beauty magazines, "Best Surgeons of the Year" magazines and other publications. Use them for information, but do not take it for absolute fact.

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If you can think of any other questions or additional information you desire to know, don't hesitate to ask or express your concerns. Be aware of the surgeon's age as well. I know this may sound prejudiced, but if the surgeon is an older person (I mean much older) notice if his/her hands are steady and if the glasses are super thick. I may sound horrible to you, but think about it...who wants a partially blind surgeon with shaky unsteady hands working on their body? Not me. I mean, they may have good intentions and may be trained and certified up and down but it still does not help when it comes to their physical ability. Take notice of the hands, behavior related to poor eyesight and the sharpness of the mind.

After you select a few surgeons the next important step is Researching Plastic Surgeons. Be sure to visit the research section for important tips and resources on getting the scoop on these possibles before you schedule consultations. This saves both money and time -- not to mention it can save your life.

This website is committed to aiding you through the process of selecting a highly skilled and experienced liposuction specialist and cosmetic surgeon in your area. Our resources provide information on numerous plastic surgeons across the country, including New York City, Detroit, Atlanta, Seattle and Los Angeles liposuction specialists. In addition to liposuction, many plastic surgeons in these areas also provide additional cosmetic surgery procedure to further enhance the beauty of their patients, including tummy tuck Los Angeles and NYC patients, among others. Information regarding providers of breast augmentation Los Angeles, New York and Chicago patients go to in order to increase their bust size is also available.

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