Understanding Certification

Understanding Medical Titles, Certifications, Qualifications, and Specialties

“We get most of our exercise jumping to conclusions.” – Anonymous

Cosmetic surgery may seem like forbidden fruit because it typically involves procedures your health insurance does not cover. The investigation process does not start by flipping through your HMO manual. You have to do your homework. Beyond the financial considerations are far more important issues. You do not want to have unreasonable expectations, too much surgery, or end up having a procedure done by someone who just happened to advertise themselves as a cosmetic surgeon.

Board Certification

Many consumers are utterly baffled when it comes to board certification. They confuse it with state licensing. Others think the American Medical Association certifies plastic surgeons. Some consumers have a vague idea that surgeons specialize after receiving their medical degrees, but have no idea how this training differs from that received by those who call themselves cosmetic surgeons.

A doctor of medicine, or M.D. degree, is given at graduation from an accredited medical school. Once an M.D. degree is achieved, a license must be obtained from the state where a physician desires to practice. This state license allows an M.D. to practice in any specialty whatsoever, regardless of training beyond the M.D. degree. After receiving a medical degree, most physicians enroll in a residency program, which gives them expertise in a particular area. Following this training, they can take another examination given by a medical specialty board (called “boards”) and become certified in that particular specialty. So, a medical degree, a state license, and board certification are three different qualifications.

Currently, any licensed physician is legally allowed to perform cosmetic surgery procedures. In fact, if you have M.D. after your name, you can even do brain surgery, whether you have any surgical training or not. Scary, is it not?

What would prevent a physician from doing this? Well, some insurance companies will not allow a surgeon to be on their rosters unless they are board certified. Hospitals restrict privileges unless appropriate training can be documented. A lot of cosmetic surgery is done in private offices or in surgery centers. So people can call themselves “cosmetic surgeons” without having hospital privileges and credibility in the professional community. Be absolutely sure the surgeon you choose has admitting privileges for rhinoplasty surgery at the local hospital(s).

You might assume that certain medical specialists are automatically trained in cosmetic surgery procedures, but this is not necessarily the case. Only a few specialties train surgeons and certify them in that field. One is plastic surgery. Another is otolaryngology/head-and-neck surgery. Both require completion of medical school, achievement of an M.D. degree, and postgraduate formal residency in surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery. Plastic surgeons are trained in plastic surgery of the entire body. Otolaryngologists/head-and-neck surgeons are trained in plastic and reconstructive surgery of the head and neck. Patients have a right to know the full nature and extent of their doctor’s formal training. Consumers can choose whatever kind of physician they wish, but they should be given the information needed to make an informed choice.

Certifying Boards

The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) certifies plastic surgeons. The ABPS is approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The ABPS’s primary purpose is to evaluate and pass judgment on the training and knowledge of broadly competent plastic surgeons.

The American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ABFPRS) certifies surgeons exclusively in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. It establishes requirements for doctors seeking facial plastic surgery training and sets standards for graduate education in this specialty. It conducts qualifying written and oral exams for certification.

The American Board of Otolaryngology certifies surgeons in the specialty of otolaryngology/head-and-neck surgery. Its certificate includes facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. Much of their training covers nasal surgery. The Boards of Otolaryngology and Plastic Surgery are part of the American Board of Medical Specialties, a not-for-profit organization that oversees 24 approved medical specialty boards in setting standards and improving healthcare quality through board certification. The American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is an additional board for training those interested in cosmetic facial surgery who have prior board certification in otolaryngology or plastic surgery.

As a consumer, your best choice is a nasal surgeon who is board certified by one of the above boards with a particular interest in rhinoplasty surgery.

Professional Organizations

In addition to board certification, there are well-respected professional organizations, such as The Rhinoplasty Society, that will only admit reputable plastic, facial plastic, and otolaryngology/head-and-neck surgeons to their membership. When you are selecting a rhinoplasty surgeon, check to see if he or she belongs to one of the following:

Who May Join The Rhinoplasty Society?

Now that you have a better understanding of credentials, the requirements for surgeons to join The Rhinoplasty Society will be more understandable. The membership criteria as stated in the bylaws for The Rhinoplasty Society is strict, confining itself to members who have an avid interest in nasal surgery and have a large number of rhinoplasty patients. Members must be persons who perform plastic surgery or facial plastic surgery and who are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, the American Board of Otolaryngology, the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, or an equivalent foreign examining board. Three years of active practice in the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery, otolaryngology, or facial plastic and reconstructive surgery is a must. Active members must show contributions to the education of rhinoplasty surgeons by teaching and publishing written works.

What do the initials “FACS” mean?

When the initials “FACS” follow the name of a surgeon, it means the surgeon is a member of a specific surgical society: “Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.”

Where can you check a rhinoplasty surgeon’s credentials?

You can confirm a rhinoplasty surgeon’s credentials by contacting any of the boards listed above.

Contact Your State’s Medical Board

A directory of state medical boards can be found at: http://www.mhsource.com/resource/board.html

When All Is Said and Done

This website will guarantee you will find a surgeon with expertise in rhinoplasty, although it will not necessarily guarantee your result