American Board of Plastic Surgery
The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is the gold standard for certification in plastic surgery. While there are a lot of of "boards" out there, the ABPS is the only plastic surgery board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The ABMS has been operating for 80 years, and is a non-profit organization committed to ensuring that patients receive top quality care in their 24 recognized medical boards by means of developing and instituting uncompromising professional standards.
The American Board of Medical Specialties certifies medical boards such as the American Board of Pediatrics, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and so forth.
Requirements for ABPS Certification
To become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a surgeon must graduate from an accredited medical school. He or she must have completed at least five years of additional training as a resident surgeon in a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Medical Education or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. This five-year minimum perior includes at least two years devoted entirely to plastic surgery.
What about the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery?
The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. They do not have the same stringent standards that are required by the ABPS, and they are not overseen by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The ABCS is a self-governing board.
Training requirements for ABCS "certification" are quite different from that of the ABPS. For example, if a dermatologist (yes, a SKIN doctor) takes ONE year of training general surgery, and one year of training in breast and "extremity" surgery, he or she can be "certified" by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. The ABPS requires at LEAST five years of surgical traning with three in general surgery, and at least two in plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Plastic Surgery versus Cosmetic Surgery
It is quite easy to be confused by these two phrases. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery's web site states that, "There are currently no residency programs in the United States devoted exclusively to cosmetic surgery." This can be very misleading, as it is easy for someone to assume that plastic surgeons only do "repair" work and "reconstructive" work, and that one must be a "cosmetic" surgeon in order to do any cosmetic work. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the American Board of Medical Specialties, which oversees the 24 major medical boards, including the only recognized plastic surgery board (the ABPS), states:
"A Plastic Surgeon deals with the repair, reconstruction or replacement of physical defects of form or function involving the skin, musculoskeletal system, craniomaxillofacial structures, hand, extremities, breast and trunk and external genitalia or cosmetic enhancement of these areas of the body. Cosmetic surgery is an essential component of plastic surgery. The Plastic Surgeon uses cosmetic surgical principles to both improve overall appearance and to optimize the outcome of reconstructive procedures."
MD's and DO's
MD stands for Medical Doctor. DO stands for Doctor of Osteopathy.
Both MDs and DOs can become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Board-eligibility means that a doctor has completed his approved residency, but has not yet taken his or her exams with the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Up until January 2012, the term "board-eligible" was not even recognized by the ABPS, or any other board overseen by the American Board of Medical Specialties. However, the ABMS introduced a new policy that now allows surgeons to advertise as board-eligible. This new policy does have guidelines so that surgeons cannot abuse the term "board-eligible" by indefinitely advertising as such. Each specialty board has certain time limits during which they can advertise as board-eligible. For plastic surgoens, that time limit is 7 years. Put simply, they must get certified by the ABPS wtihin 7 years, or else they have to start the process (including the waiting period) all over again. Any phsycian advertising as board-eligible beyond the established time limits will be sanctioned by the ABMS.
The only way to verity whether or not your surgeon is board-eligible is to call the American Board of Plastic Surgery at (215) 587-9322.