Double-Board Certified Plastic Surgeon?

Some doctors are calling themselves “double-board certified” or “triple board certified” surgeons. This terminology seems to be especially common on the Internet, and, in my opinion, is a bit of a pretentious marketing ploy. Since the whole board certification thing can be a bit confusing for consumers, let’s talk about it.

As you probably already know, being board-certified in a specialty means you’ve completed an approved residency in that area, then completed the written and oral examination process set up by that Board, including case reviews and time-in-practice requirements. It’s a thorough method – and anyone who passes any of the board exams of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) should be proud to call themselves a specialist in that area.

A physician who has completed training and passed the board examinations in two different areas of surgery or medicine can legitimately call themselves “double-board certified”, if they wish. For example, many plastic surgeons, including myself, have trained in General Surgery, as well as Plastic Surgery, and have completed both examination processes. A background in Otolaryngology (ear, nose & throat) as well as Plastic Surgery is another common combination. Parenthetically, I don’t know anybody who leaves Plastic Surgery to go into ENT – it’s always the other way around!

In addition to the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada also has a very rigorous examination process in Plastic Surgery, and their certification is widely accepted in the U.S. as being completely equivalent in quality to the ABPS’ process. Other than Canada, medical training diplomas and certificates from other countries are not commonly accepted here.

What makes matters more confusing for consumers, though, are the plethora on non-ABMS organizations, that call themselves “Boards” of this or that. They are not part of the official group of 24 medical and surgical specialties that make up the ABMS, and are not generally considered as being equivalent to an ABMS certification by the majority of States in the U.S. (You can read more about this at the ABMS website –

For example: You or I could quite legally start up our own corporate organization, and call it, say, the “American Board of Blogging”. We could then issue certificates to our friends which proclaim that so-and-so is “board-certified” by the American Board of Blogging. And we could have meetings, and give courses about blogging from our affiliated “American Institute of Advanced Blogging”…. but, of course, our fictional American Board of Blogging wouldn’t be any kind of officially-sanctioned ABMS Board. Except for one loophole – if we can somehow persuade our State legislators to pass a law to make us legally “equivalent” to those other Boards.

Well, here in Florida, certifications by the non-ABMS “American Board of Liposuction”, the “American Board of Laser Surgery” or the “American Board of Cosmetic Surgery” are not legally considered by the State of Florida as being equivalent to certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgerywhich is the one-and-only official ABMS board which certifies Plastic Surgeons.

However, the State of Florida does recognize the American Board of Facial Plastic Surgery (ABFPS). So, if you are having surgery above the collarbone , you can choose between an ABFPS surgeon and an ABPS surgeon. The major difference between Plastic Surgeons and Facial Plastic Surgeons is, of course, that Plastic Surgeons are trained to do both reconstructive and cosmetic types of surgeries from head to toe. Facial Plastic Surgeons are not – they are limited to the head and neck, and don’t receive any training in breast surgery or body contouring, for example. So, I wouldn’t recommend a Facial Plastic guy to do your breast augmentation, but they may be a reasonable choice for a rhinoplasty.

One last note for today: the “Truth in Medical Education” law here in Florida means that, if a physician claims to be board-certified, he must tell you what Board gave him his certification. For example, if you find out that your so-called “cosmetic surgeon” is only certified by the American Board of Psychiatry, you may wish to reconsider having him or her do that liposuction!

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