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Does it really matter if my Plastic Surgeon is Board Certified?

First, let me make you aware of things that may surprise you.

Anyone with a medical license can do cosmetic surgery. There is no one Board that oversees the “Cosmetic Doctors” that practice today. There is no requirement to have any formal surgical training. Many of these doctors took residency training in Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Dermatology, and Emergency Medicine to name some of the more common ones. The doctor may have learned to do your procedure of interest at a weekend seminar. But, legally they have every right to present themselves to be a cosmetic doctor or cosmetic surgeon so long as they have a medical license.

As a Plastic Surgeon with a valid medical license, I can deliver a baby, do a hysterectomy, fix a broken leg, or even do brain surgery. I’d have to do it in my office O.R., but it’s legal!

I am Board Certified and I will tell you that being “Board Certified” is not a magic designation. It does not shield a surgeon or his patients from complications or less than perfect outcomes.

But, while there are no guarantees, your doctor being a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon does tell you the following:

• Your surgeon completed the proper training as prescribed by the leaders of the specialty, the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). This usually amounts to 7 years of 100+ hour weeks of Surgical Residency training.

o After residency, only 80-85% of new Plastic Surgeons pass the first part of the certification process, the written exam.

o A year later, those that pass the written exam submit and have the surgeries they have performed reviewed by the leaders of the ABPS. If their practice patterns are deemed acceptable, they go on to take a series of oral exams administered over a 3 day period. The pass rate on this is also in the 80 to 85% range.

o In the end, only about 65% of all finishing Plastic Surgery Residents, men and women who have trained for 7 years, achieve Board Certification. It is not an easy process.

• In order to maintain privileges at hospitals, doctors are required to be certified in their specialty. So, the hospitals think it’s important.

• Insurance companies generally require participating doctors to be certified in their specialty. So, the insurance companies think it’s important too.

In order to be an Active Member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the only National Society of Plastic Surgeons, one has to be Board Certified. Obviously, the ASPS find it important.

Why do the insurance companies and hospitals and governing bodies require certification? Well, because there is no substitute for proper training and experience. These, attributes, ones ensured via the certification process, maximize your safety and offer the best chance of achieving the surgical results your desire.

So, it isn’t a 100% guarantee, but Board Certification is important and is a factor you should consider as you choose your Plastic Surgeon.

Lee Corbett, MD

4121 Dutchmans Lane, Suite 305
Louisville, KY 40207

All posts on this blog are authored by Kentucky cosmetic surgeon Dr. Lee Corbett.

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