Degrees, and Board Certification: Page 2
The plastic surgery boards
There are several boards that certify doctors who
perform plastic surgery. Most plastic surgeons are certified by one
or more of the following boards:
Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Board of Plastic Surgery
Board of Otolaryngology
Board of Cosmetic Surgery
Note that not all of the boards have "plastic
surgery" or "cosmetic surgery" in their names.
Don't try to memorize the names of these boards; just read
Each board develops its own rigorous
examinations, and each board stipulates prerequisites of training and
experience that the doctor must meet before he may sit for the
Now take a closer look at that list of four boards
above and decide which board you want your plastic surgeon to be
certified by. Correct answer:
you can't. All of
these boards certify doctors who perform plastic surgery, and the name of
the board doesn't tell you anything about the skill of the doctor.
Even that board with the inscrutable name, otolaryngology: it was
one of the first certifying boards, established in 1924, and it decided to
keep its original Greek-derived name.
The name is not very recognizable, so from a marketing
standpoint the name is just awful -- would
you have started your search for a plastic surgeon by looking for a doctor
certified by that board? But
some of the world's best plastic surgeons are certified under that board,
a good example of why you shouldn't select your doctor by the name
of his certifying board.
You will see other boards, too.
For example, ophthalmologists, who are certified by the American
Board of Ophthalmology, are trained in surgery around the eyes,
and many of them perform cosmetic eyelid surgery.
Some dermatologists, certified by the American Board of
Dermatology, perform plastic surgery of the skin, such as liposuction and
How to become an excellent plastic
So now you know the path that a doctor takes to
get trained in plastic surgery and achieve his board certification.
Next, let's look at a different path: how to become an excellent
"Wait!" you say. "Won't the road to board certification always lead to an
excellent plastic surgeon?" No,
it emphatically will not, and therein lies this essay's biggest lesson: the
fact that the doctor is board certified gives you no guarantee, no
assurance, no indication that he is competent to perform the operation
that you are requesting. I
understand that runs contrary to everything you have heard about board
certification, so let's take a couple minutes to make certain you
understand why certification is no guarantee of skill.
In order to become an
surgeon, you start out as a bright student.
You have great manual dexterity and an eye for detail. You read voraciously. Your
surgery teachers are superb; you are able to absorb everything they have
to give. Perhaps you attend a
fellowship for a year or two after your residency.
You care more about the quality of your work than the volume of
The board certification test doesn't make you an
excellent plastic surgeon. Of
course you'll pass when you sit for the exam, but it's your talent, your
interest, your artistic sense, your manual skills, your ability to learn,
your ethics, your humanity, and the quality of your teachers that make you
an excellent plastic surgeon.
The board certification exam is
and oral, not surgical and technical.
It is conducted in a conference room over the course of a day, not
in the operating room over the course of a year.
The exam does not evaluate the quality of the surgery
that the doctor performs. It
does not evaluate his surgical judgment in the operating room, his
artistic sense, his feel for his tools, his concern for the well-being of
his patients. The exam does
not involve an evaluation of his before and after pictures, flunking
doctors who perform poorly. Your
doctor's board certification simply is no guarantee of good results.