Why is Board Certification Important?
When choosing a physician, it is important for the patient to be an informed consumer. One of the key elements in selecting a physician is the status of the physician's board certification. Board certification can be quite confusing to the general public because of the plethora of societies and certifying boards in existence throughout the US. One only needs to open the phone book or local newspaper to find physicians advertising membership and board certification in various societies and specialty boards. The mere fact that a physician is "board certified" may be deceiving. The true importance lies in which board has certified the physicians. Moreover, board certification is only one of the elements to consider in selecting a physician, a topic covered more extensively in another chapter (see How to Select a Plastic Surgeon).
What is a Certifying Board?
Major specialty certifying boards are not educational institutions. Certificates issued by these boards do not confer degrees. Certification does not grant legal qualifications, hospital privileges, medical licensure, the right to prescribe medications, or the competence to perform procedures. Board certification is not a requirement to practice a specialty.
What, then, is the role of a certifying board? Specialty certifying boards were developed to maintain and improve the quality of medical care in the US through the development of educational and professional standards for evaluating and certifying physicians. Board certification simply means that the physician has completed the requirements set forth by the specialty board. This generally includes graduation from an approved medical school, completion of an ACGME accredited residency program in that field, and completion of comprehensive written and oral examinations in that field.
Physicians who have successfully completed the requirements set forth by the board may be granted a certificate and are known as a diplomate of the board. In the past, lifetime board certification was granted. During the past 10 years, however, most boards have changed in this regard. Physicians who have previously received board certification for life retain this right. Newly certified physicians, however, receive certificates that expire after a specified period of time, generally 10 years. To recertify in the specialty, the physician must be reexamined, generally in the form of a written examination.
Board certification does not guarantee good results or an absence of complications; however, it is a good indicator of training, competence, and experience. The field of plastic surgery has one, and only one, specialty board that your plastic surgeon should be a diplomate of. The American Board of Plastic Surgery certifies physicians in plastic surgery of the entire body.
The American Board of Plastic Surgery
The American Board of Plastic Surgery was established in 1937. To become certified by this board, a physician must meet certain qualifications, which include the following:
- Graduate from an accredited medical school
- Hold a license to practice medicine in the state in which they reside
- Complete at least three years of training in general surgery in an ACGME accredited residency program
- Complete a minimum of two years of training in plastic surgery in an ACGME accredited residency program
- Have been in practice for six months during which time all operative reports and pre- and postoperative photographs are submitted and accepted by a peer-review committee
- Successfully complete comprehensive written and oral examinations
More information may be obtained from this board at the following address and web site:
The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS)
Seven Penn Center, Suite 400
1635 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2204
Visit The American Board of Plastic Surgery at www.abplsurg.org
Board certification is an important consideration when selecting a physician. Hopefully this chapter has shed some light on a thoroughly confusing subject.
Dr. Don Revis, Jr. is board certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery. For more information, or to schedule a complimentary consultation, you may reach his office at 954-630-2009.