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What Does “Board Certified Plastic Surgeon” Mean?

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Not many of us today, will buy a carton of yogurt without inspecting the ingredients.  So why would someone even consider choosing a Plastic Surgeon without looking behind the label?

You hear it on talk shows, and read it in magazines and blogs: “Be sure to choose a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon.”  Sounds like good, and important advice. And it is.  But, you may not have a full understanding of what it really means.

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) was formed about 80 years ago. Its mission is to serve the public by establishing and measuring standards that would demonstrate a doctor’s expertise in a particular specialty, or sub-specialty of medical practice.

There are a number of Specialty Boards under the ABMS umbrella, including the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This is the name of the board you’re being advised to look for.  Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is considered the “gold standard” in measuring your physician’s expertise.  Consider these facts;

  •  Before being certified in a specialty, a licensed medical doctor must go through a rigorous process of testing and peer evaluation.  (If any of you have watched the popular TV show “Grey’s Anatomy,” you may have seen a few episodes about this intense process. They included moments of high drama, and high humor.)
  • Before they can even be eligible for certification, licensed doctors must compile a given number of cases, or surgeries performed in the specialty, which are thoroughly reviewed by veteran physicians in the same area of medicine.
  • While Plastic Surgery is an area of medicine requiring years of specialized training, many doctors who have training in other areas, are now describing themselves as “plastic surgeons.”  Even though they are not technically considered to be Plastic Surgeons, they are not restricted from using these descriptions.   Yes, it can be confusing.
  • This is why you’re seeing so many Board-Certification  articles.  A doctor may be certified by one (or more) of a number of boards.  You, the medical consumer, should ask the question:  “Which Board Certification do you hold?” and “In what Specialty did you train?”  The answers to these questions, along with a quick look at the doctor’s bio on his or her website, should provide you with the information you need. For Plastic Surgery, look for  “The American Board of Plastic Surgery.

In addition, take a look at the American Board of Medical Specialties website info@abplsurg.org or the American Society of Plastic Surgeons site, www.plasticsurgery.org for even more information. It may take you a few extra minutes, but it will be to your benefit.

For the record, Dr. Vincent Lepore is Board Certified,  by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the California Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities, California Medical Association, and Santa Clara County Medical Society. 

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