Degrees, and Board Certification: Page 4
Board certified, board eligible, board
You may read in an advertisement that a plastic
surgeon is "board eligible" or "board qualified."
A doctor who is board eligible or board qualified is not
board certified. "Board
eligible" is a standard, well-known term that means the doctor has
graduated from his residency and completed the requirements for taking his
boardís certification exam, but he hasnít taken and passed that exam
yet. The board will allow
him to take the test; he is eligible to take the test.
The doctor may have
already taken the exam, and
flunked it, twice, but he is still board eligible if the board allows him
to try again. On the other hand, the board eligible doctor may
be a very talented surgeon, but he simply hasn't been in practice
long enough to take the test yet. Many
boards require some practice experience before the doctor may sit for the
exam, and the test is only given once a year.
"Board qualified" means the same
thing as "board eligible": the
doctor has permission from the board to take the exam if he so wishes.
"board qualified" sounds more like "board
certified" than "board eligible" does, so it's a better
Neither board eligible nor board qualified is an official term
recognized by the certifying boards, but many people know what they mean
and use them.
Using board certification in your search for a
It is a good idea to check that your
doctor is board certified by at least one of the boards listed at the end
of this essay. Why? Although it does not speak specifically to his skill in the
operating room, your doctor's board certification does show that he has
done a serious amount of study and has made the effort to take and pass
the exams. Also, as part of
the examination process, the board will have ascertained for you that the
doctor truly has an M.D. degree from a real medical school, that he has a
license to practice medicine, and that he completed a residency
appropriate to his board certification. (To find our advice on how
to find a competent plastic surgeon, click on the link in the navigation
bar at left that says "Find a surgeon.")
During your consultation with the plastic surgeon
you are considering hiring, find out if he is board certified, but donít
get crazy about which board did the certifying.
The plastic surgeon that you are interviewing knows that he
competes with the other plastic surgeons in town for your business, and
it's not uncommon for a doctor to criticize another plastic surgeon during
your consultation because that doctor was certified by a different
certifying board. If that
happens, tell your plastic surgeon politely that you really would be much
more interested in some solid evidence of his competence and skill than in
his diplomas or what he thinks of someone elseís diplomas.
Some patients give the diplomas more than just a
glance. I walked into my
consultation room one day to see a middle-aged woman who had come to talk
about a face lift. As I
entered, she was standing right next to my diploma wall, eyeglasses off,
her face literally one inch from one of the certificates.
Oh, boy, I thought, this poor lady is so nearsighted that she has
to touch her nose to the diplomas just to be able to read them.
I introduced myself, and she turned back to the
diploma she had been studying. "Know
what I do for a living?" she asked.
That's me trying to be glib and engaging.
diplomas to see if they are real or
You probably don't have to be that thorough
examining your doctor's diplomas.
Board certification in plastic surgery
Let's look at some examples of copy from real
plastic surgery advertisements. You
have probably seen some of these before.
Note how easy it is now to spot how board certification is used
deceptively to try to get your business.
"Dr. Smith is board certified by the
National Board of Plastic Surgeons, your assurance of his skill."
His certification does not address his ability to perform your
"Spend five minutes looking at your doctor's
credentials before you spend a lifetime looking at his work."
That line, proudly composed by an advertising agency, is ironically
inverted. As we'll see in the
next chapter, you should spend five minutes looking at his previous
work -- his
before and after pictures -- before
deciding to hire him. His credentials
donít help you.
that your plastic surgeon is board
certified by (insert name of a board here), because it's the only
that certifies real plastic surgeons. . ."
recognized by the American Medical. . ."
approved by the National Association of. . ."
authorized by. . ."
is meaningless advertising hype, and it's likely to be blatantly
inaccurate. Plastic surgery
linguistic tip: in general, whenever you see the word "only" in
a plastic surgery article or advertisement, you can safely ignore the
sentence containing it.