Not All Board Certifications Carry the Same Merit

by Jane Namkung, MD

Recently, in a landmark vote, the Medical Board of California voted unanimously to deny the American Board of Cosmetic Surgeons’ (ABCS) request to advertise as “board-certified” cosmetic surgeons.

By doing so, the Medical Board of California is declaring that the certification provided by the ABCS and its training provided by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgeons (AACS) is NOT equivalent to the certification and training provided by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and its member boards, which includes the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

The investigation by the Medical Board of California found that the ABCS and the AACS programs did not consistently provide adequate training or education in all aspects of cosmetic surgery. 

Now, why does this matter? 

The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgeons (AACS) offers a one-year program designed to train physicians from ANY specialty in cosmetic surgery. This means your cosmetic surgeon may be an emergency room doctor, an OB-GYN, an internal medicine doctor, or even a pathologist who decided to train for one year under another cosmetic surgeon to perform various procedures.

Plastic surgeons, on the other hand, train for three to five years in general surgery and then three years of plastic surgery. They often go on to subspecialize even further with additional fellowships. Facial plastic surgeons are typically ear, nose and throat (ENT) or plastic surgeons who then go on to do an additional one year training in facial plastic surgery. Oculoplastic surgeons are ophthalmologists who train for an additional two years in eye and face surgery. 

Most patients know these days to make sure their surgeon is board-certified. The danger comes when it is unclear in what specialty your doctor is board certified.

Hopefully, other state medical boards will follow California’s example and not allow the ABCS to advertise as board certified surgeons. Until then, do your research. Ask your doctor about their board certification. If it is not in plastic surgery or facial plastic surgery, look elsewhere.