Board certification: By what board? in what speciality?

In this video I talk about what it means to be “Board certified” and how you can check to see if the plastic surgeon you’re considering for a procedure is truly board certified or not, regardless of the number of diplomas hanging on the wall.

When it comes to your body, demand the best. Your physician or surgeon should always be board certified. More specifically, he or she should be board certified in a specialty that is recognized by the ‘American Board of Medical Specialties,’ the ABMS. There are a number of ‘specialties’ operating in the world of medicine that have created their own ‘board certification’ in ‘specialties’ that are NOT recognized by the ABMS. There is a *BIG difference* and, in general, the public is not aware of the difference.

The ABMS is the gold standard of certification, it is supported by all of the other institutionalized American boards in medicine that recognize those primary specialties. Then there’s the ‘Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’ (ACGME) that oversees the residency review committees that oversee how doctors are trained and what kind of training they’ve received. Specialties that are officially recognized by the ABMS have comprehensive residency programs with very strict criteria. Strong residency programs ensure that your physician is prepared to deal with complications, should they arise.

In the field of reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, there is only one ABMS recognized specialty: Plastic Surgery. Thus, there is only one recognized board certification: American Board of Plastic Surgery, the ABPS. Plastic surgeons who get boarded by the American Board of Plastic Surgery have much more rigorous and comprehensive training. If you want to have plastic surgery, be sure to get it done by someone who’s board certified – in plastic surgery – and how belongs to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons the (ASPS)!


Hi. I’m Dr. Ricardo Rodriguez and today I’m going to talk to you about how to tell if your surgeon’s board certified.

Why does that matter? Well, because, let me give you an example. You can go, today, in Baltimore, and talk to a surgeon and ask him, “Are you board certified?” and the guy will say, “Yes!” – and then you let him operate on your eyelids – and then later on you discover that, for example, he’s an oral surgeon. And you let an oral surgeon do your eyelids. And he is board-certified, the thing is, he’s board certified in oral surgery.

So, obviously, if you want to have plastic surgery, you know, get it done by somebody who’s certified in plastic surgery.

So, it’s not only, you know, board certified in what, that’s the important thing, and then the other thing is like, okay, so who decides what the important board is; because, you know, today there’s like boards of cosmetic surgery, boards of this plastic surgery and that plastic surgery… No, no, no. There’s only one American Board of Plastic Surgery and I’m going to teach you how to find this on your own, so that no matter how big the diploma is on the guys office and how many fancy letters it has, you’ll know whether that guy is truly a board-certified.

So, to be board certified, you have to be board certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties, okay? That is a gold standard. They’ve been in existence for 75 years and they have their own recognized set of medical specialties and only those are the ones that really matter.

Okay, then there’s also the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Okay, they oversee the residency review committees that oversee how you’re trained, what kind of training you’re receiving.

You know, if you think that this problem is new now, this has been happening since the beginning of last century. All these organizations were created to prevent people from like going to a course or spending six months with somebody and saying, okay, you know, I’m a specialist in plastic surgery because, you know, I spent a year with a famous plastic surgeon in France.

No, there’s a whole credentialing process you have to go through, a well-defined residency program, to ensure that you are a quality plastic surgeon.

So, this is the website for the American Board of Medical Specialties (, okay, and in here you have the member boards, okay, and when you click on that site, you will see the different specialties listed. So you can tell if your surgeon belongs to any one of those specialties and that’s important, okay.

This is the ACGME website and it shows all the other component societies that support these organisations. In other words, this is not just that the American Board of Medical Specialties decided, under no, okay, no, we are the guys.

No, they’re supported by all these other institutionalized American Boards in medicine that recognize these as the primary organizations for granting Board status.

This is the American Board of Plastic Surgery website ( Go there, it’s full of information about plastic surgery and it has a list of the members in your state and city. So not only do you want to make sure that your surgeon is board certified in plastic surgery, okay, you also want to make sure that he adheres to certain professional standards and that he is held into account by his peers.

All those things are very important in the formation of a surgeon who is, not guaranteed, but really has the best chance to give you the best possible treatment.

Now, there is a big difference, okay, and it doesn’t just have to do with the fact that, you know, the American Board of Medical Specialties recognizes you, no, it’s the path that led you to that, that makes the difference.

For example, there’s a big difference in a residency training program that lasts several years (where you take care of patients before, after, you take care of their complications, you see problems, you see many different approaches) then taking a course by somebody who’s proficient at one technique (you’re just there for the weekend, you don’t assess the patient beforehand, you don’t get to manage complications afterwards). Big difference!

Okay, taking care of a problem versus doing a procedure: It’s very easy to say, “Okay, yeah, I’m going to do lipo on you” – quite another thing to evaluate the patient, see how to best approach a body contouring, seeing whether it’s better for the patient to do something else before… That is taking care of a patient, okay, rather than just going out and doing a procedure.

Then, being held to the highest standard by your peers. That’s really important, okay. You may be board certified, you may be all this and that, but if you’re not a true professional and adherent to certain standards you’re not, in my opinion, as worthy as a guy who is adhering to all the professional and ethical standards and who is held in high esteem by his peers.

Now, a lifelong pursuit. Most Plastic Surgeons I know have known that for a long time, that’s what they wanted to be, you know, from the beginning of their residency, they were looking at. This is not like, some, you know, ‘Oh, you know, I was doing internal medicine, but, you know, reimbursement is really bad, i’m going to bring in a laser machine and do some stuff” . . . No, this is a lifelong pursuit. This is what I’ve dreamt of doing for a long time. I mean, you know, I identify myself as such, it’s a big part of my identity and that makes a difference.

Now, when it comes to your body, demand the best. Accept no substitute! Okay? Make sure you’re having surgery by a board-certified plastic surgeon who belongs to the American Society of Plastic Surgery.

Okay, well, by the way, I gave you the tools. Go look it up. You got the links in the blog post. So, when you go to the doctor, make sure! Now you know how to do it.

Thank you for listening and we’ll see you at our next blog post and keep the feedback coming, okay, I like the feedback. Thank you.

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