This week I want to talk about the idea of Board Certification. I think this can really be a hard one for the general public, because there is often inadequate information provided about the topic. Some groups have taken advantage of the public by creating a “board” that really does not have the same level of standards that people think they are getting when they engage a “board certified” surgeon.
The most important part of this issue, as far as I am concerned, is that the patient receives the best quality care possible. Toward that end, several entities have been established in the United States to ensure that a high standard of skill, understanding and ethical care are available to the public.
The first of these is the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). This body ensures that the residency training programs for physicians who will eventually become eligible for board certification meet specific standards. It has a review committee made up of very highly qualified individuals, often high level academic physicians, for each of its approved specialties. In order to start the process of becoming board certified, the individual must complete an approved residency.
The next step is to prepare for the board certification examinations. The requirements differ according to the nature of various specialties, but they are specified by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the body supervises the process of certification for its member boards. Approval of the specific board, such as Plastic Surgery, General Surgery, and the other member boards of the ABMS, by this body demonstrates that that board has met very rigorous standards and therefore ensures that the certified individual is well trained and competent.
Many specialty societies such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) require board certification by the appropriate ABMS board in order to be considered for membership.
There are mechanisms in place for continued quality assurance for board certified individuals as well. These include participation requirements for a certain amount of continuing education each year in order to retain membership in specialty societies, the MOC program (Maintenance of Certification) which defines specific continuing education content, and yearly in-service examinations which assess the factual base of the surgeon and help guide continuing educational goals. Most recently awarded certifications require repeat examination at specific intervals.
Unfortunately, there are a number of “wannabe” boards out there, and it is sometimes hard for the public to determine which they are. I have included some website addresses for the important groups mentioned above. If the “board” the surgeon you are considering is not listed on the roster of the American Board of Medical Specialties, in my opinion, you are taking a risk that you might avoid by using someone certified by a bona fide ABMS board.
I am certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery, an ABMS member board, a fact in which I take great pride. I am also a member of the ASPS and the ASAPS.
Here are the links I mentioned: