Despite the thorough information on my website, I still once in a while get asked questions like “Are you Board Certified?” or “What is a Facial Plastic Surgeon” or “How is a Facial Plastic Surgeon different from a Plastic Surgeon?”
Here are the facts:
- The larger overall governing body in the United States is the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).
- There are 24 medical specialty boards under the ABMS.
- The ABPS (American Board of Plastic Surgery) is one of the main boards overseeing the training and qualifications of Plastic Surgeons.
- The ASPS (American Society of Plastic Surgery) and the ASEPS (American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery) are the two main societies of Plastic Surgeons.
- Boards are not the same as Societies or Academies. Boards are the governing bodies responsible for examination and training qualifications. Academies and Societies are merely membership groups or clubs concentrating more on educational meetings as well as Marketing and media.
- The members of ABPS, ASPS, ASEPS are Plastic Surgeons also known as general plastic surgeons. These are usually made up of surgeons who have finished 5 years of general surgery training concentrating on abdominal surgery followed by 2 years of plastic surgery covering the entire body. It is not rare to spend only 4-6 months out of the 7 years on the face. They can then become certified by the ABPS and can then join the ASPS &/or the ASEPS.
- ONLY THE ABPS, ASPS, ASEPS which are closely related groups and made up of general plastic surgeons insist on making sure that your plastic surgeon is certified by the ABPS or a member of the ASPS.
- The fact is that the field of Plastic Surgery dates back to head and neck surgeons (Otolaryngologists) who created and coined the field.
- The fact is that the prestigious American Board of Otolaryngology (ABO) and all of its members are certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) in the EXACT same manner as the American Board of Plastic Surgery. The difference is that ABO does not advertise or market itself due to its bylaws.
- The fact is that the only two ABMS boards (out of 24 member boards) certifying its members to perform “Plastic Surgery” are the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology.
- The American Board of Plastic Surgery certifies its members to perform plastic surgery on the entire body under the authority of the ABMS.
- The American Board of Otolaryngology certifies its members to perform plastic surgery on the head and neck only (Facial plastic surgery) under the authority of the ABMS.
- Some head and neck surgeons train beyond after their initial residency and board certification and complete an accredited fellowship under the governance of the American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) and then can try to obtain their second board certification under the American Board of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery (ABFPRS).
- The AAFPRS is the Facial Plastic Surgeon’s society similar to the ASPS for Plastic Surgeons.
- The ABFPRS is a sub-specialty Board under the governance of the ABO.
- Members of the ABFPRS have to have completed certification by the ABO or the ABPS before being able to sit for the 2-day ABFPRS examination or submit their case logs for certification.
- Facial Plastic Surgeons have completed a 5 year head and neck surgery residency followed by a one year fellowship exclusively in Facial Plastic Surgery.
- Here is the difference:
- There are other boards as well such as the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS) and American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS), American Board of Laser Surgery, etc but these are not under the ABMS and are not validated by a single state in the U.S.
- Only the ABPS and ABO (and its sub-specialty board ABFPRS) are responsible for maintaining high standards and safety criteria for their members performing plastic surgery on the entire body and face respectively.
- Only the ABPS and ASPS recommend that your surgeon be certified only by them. The fact is that if you are seeking body plastic surgery then they are correct and your surgeon should be certified by them. However, if you are seeking Facial Plastic Surgery then your surgeon can be certified by the ABPS/ASPS or the ABO/ABFPRS. Here is the training difference again:
- There are amazing surgeons certified by both societies and boards. Unfortunately, there are also some lousy surgeons certified by these governing bodies. Just because your surgeon is “board certified” it does not guarantee a safe and successful outcome. But it is the most basic and minimal criteria to start with. The rest depends on training, skill, experience, judgement, talent, ethics, etc…