Degrees, and Board Certification: Page 3
"But if board certification is no indication
of excellence," you ask, "why are we so consistently
admonished to make sure our doctor is board certified?" Those of you over the age of 45 will remember that we never
used to think about checking whether our doctors were board certified.
The pervasive admonishments about checking board
certification are the lingering after-effects of a failed public relations
effort. One national group of
plastic surgeons, in an attempt to gain business for its members, launched
a massive public relations campaign to convince you that just the possession
of their board certification diploma implied surgical excellence.
However, the plan backfired. The public didn't remember the entire message:
sure your doctor is board certified only by our board, the
XYZ Board of Cosmetic Plastic Surgeons."
The public only remembered
part of the
sure your doctor is board certified."
So the campaign failed to direct people
toward doctors certified by that one board.
However, the public relations campaign was extensive; its message
was repeated in every media article.
As a result, the public did remember the abbreviated
message about making sure that the doctor is board certified.
So now everyone asks about board certification, every magazine
article stresses it, and nobody has a realistic understanding of
what it means (except you, of course).
The Academies, Societies, and Colleges
You are reading the diplomas on the wall of your
plastic surgeon's consultation room, and you see that he is a member of
the "American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery." Academy? You've
heard of the boards, but.... Is
the academy where he went to train?
The academies and societies are organizations formed by the
doctors so that they can get together to discuss and promote their mutual
interests. The societies and
academies provide educational meetings and courses, address socioeconomic
and legislative issues affecting their members, and maintain pubic
The three groups you will see mentioned most
the American Academy of Facial Plastic and
the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive
the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.
You are a "member" of a
and you are "board certified" by a board.
Some societies and academies call their doctors "fellows"
instead of "members." Dozens
of these organizations exist, and your doctor's consultation room wall may
be tiled with their diplomas. Browse
through your community's telephone Yellow Pages under the heading of
plastic surgery: some of the advertisements will have long lists of the
organizations to which the doctor belongs.
These academic/political societies do not give
examinations, and they do not grant board certification.
Membership does not imply excellence in the operating room.
It's nice for the doctor to tell you that he is a member of and
supports his national academies, but it doesn't give you any reassurance
that your surgery will come out well.
The American Medical Association, or the
"AMA," as you'll hear it called, is the largest association of
doctors of all different specialties.
The AMA, in its own words, "promotes the art and science of
medicine and the betterment of public health," but membership in the AMA, like membership in the
professional societies is no indication of your doctor's skill.
Here's something else you'll see frequently: the
letters "F.A.C.S." after the doctor's name, like this:
John Smith, M.D., F.A.C.S.
F.A.C.S. stands for "Fellow of the American
College of Surgeons." The
American College of Surgeons (ACS) is not a college like Harvard or the
University of Michigan; itís
an organization of surgeons very much like the societies and academies
mentioned above, but the ACS is older than any of the certifying boards.
It is traditional for doctors who are fellows of the ACS to use the
F.A.C.S. letters after their names, whereas the use of a societyís
initials after the "M.D." hasnít caught on with any of the