Plastic Surgery Credentials, What Matters?

Board Certification Requirements in Plastic Surgery

Dr. Alan Durkin is a true plastic surgeon that has been certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. The American Board of Plastic Surgery represents the pinnacle of training in American Plastic Surgery, and only people who have graduated from an accredited training program in aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery are eligible for this credential. Unlike the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, or the American Board of Aesthetic Medicine, the American Board of Plastic Surgery is supported and ratified by the American Board of Medical Specialites (ABMS).

The American Board of Medical Specialties was formed in 1933, and it serves to regulate and maintain the highest standards of medical training and practice within the United States. The ABMS is THE STANDARD BEARER in medical education, and to be approved by the ABMS means that the American Board of Plastic Surgery either meets or exceeds all of the criteria set forth by ABMS.

American Board of Medical Specialties

Confusing, right? Try it this way. The ABMS is the organization that defines what each medical specialty is, what is required to train and teach in that specialty, and then approves training programs that meet its standards to teach. They are the backbone of accredited medicine and surgery within the United States.

The only board certifications that are recognized by hospitals, universities, insurance companies, and government organizations are those that are approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

There are 24 boarded specialties recognized by ABMS, and they are listed to the right. The most recent board to be accepted into ABMS was the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics, sounded in 1991.

American Board of Medical Specialties

Board Certification in Plastic Surgery vs Cosmetic Surgery

Certification Requirements by Amercian Board of Plastic Surgery

  • Graduate from an accredited medical school at or near the top of class. There are only 144 such schools in the United States, and 17 in Canada.
  • Pass the United States Medical Licensure Examination Steps I, II, and III (USMLE –LINK).
  • Get accepted into a training program accredited by the American College of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME – LINK).
    • Currently, there are only 207 training spots per year in Plastic Surgery. For these 207 annual spots, there are over 4,000 applicants each year, making Plastic Surgery the most difficult program to match into.
  • Have an active medical license in the United States and/or Canada
  • Complete one of two separate pathways
    1. Integrated Pathway – Plastic Surgery residents complete 3 years of general surgery, and then complete 3 years of directed Plastic Surgery training. During their three years, they must meet and/or exceed case requirements for EVERY nationally recognized plastic surgery procedure. If they do not meet these criteria, they do not graduate. Typically, graduates complete, at the very least, over 1,000 cases prior to graduation
    2. Independent Pathway – Physicians complete a full 5 year residency in General Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, Neurosurgery, or Otolaryngology. After completion of this intensive training, they are then eligible to compete for 1 of 68 spots offered annually to physicians in training. For these spots, there are over 2,000 applications annually, again making Plastic Surgery training the most competitive match on the planet. For those that are accepted, they then must complete a minimum of 3 years of directed Plastic Surgery training. During their 3 years, they must meet and/or exceed case requirements for EVERY nationally recognized plastic surgery procedure. If they do not meet these criteria, they do not graduate. . Typically, graduates complete, at the very least, over 1,000 cases prior to graduation.

Pass the American Board of Plastic Surgery qualifying examination.

  • This written examination evaluates the entire body of Plastic Surgery knowledge. At this point, the physicians taking this examination are the top 1% of the 1%. Despite this, this incredibly difficult examination will still fail the bottom 13%.

Once passing the American Board of Plastic Surgery Qualifying Examination, applicants are then required to report every single patient case that they do for a period of 9 months to the American Board of Plastic Surgery(ABPS).

  • These cases are reviewed by the Board, and five to ten cases are randomly selected by the ABPS.

Pass the American Board of Plastic Surgery Certifying Examination.

  • This examination is done orally, in person, and is delivered over the course of two days every year in Phoenix, AZ. During these two days, applicants must defend their cases, and as well, they must be prepared to discuss intelligently, any and all issues within the realm of Plastic Surgery. This rigorous examination is referred to by applicants and graduates as the “oral boards”.   Again, this examination, despite being administered to the best of the best, has a 10-15% failure rate
  • For applicants that pass everything above, they and only they are able to say that they are a “Board Certified Plastic Surgeon”.

It takes approximately 10 years of dedication to become a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon.

To compare, let’s evaluate how one can becomes a graduate of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS). The following information was taken  off of the AACS website.

Certification Requirements by American Board of Cosmetic Surgery

  • Pay Annual Dues $950 (U.S.)
  • Fellow Membership may be granted to any physician (MD, DO, DDS, or DMD) who:
    • has a current United States and/or Canadian medical license in the location where he/she practices;
    • has performed at least fifty (50) cosmetic surgery procedures, as the surgeon with primary responsibility for the procedure, during the 1 year prior to applying for Fellow membership;
  • NEW is board certified in a “surgical specialty” by a member board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists (AOA-BOS), by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, or by any other board deemed equivalent by the Academy’s Board of Trustees. “Surgical specialties” include Dermatology, General Surgery, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Ophthalmology, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Otolaryngology, Plastic Surgery, and any other “surgical specialty” deemed so by the Academy’s Board of Trustees;
  • is actively engaged on a regular basis in the performance of cosmetic surgery;
  • is interested in being part of a forum for physicians and dentists and related professionals from all specialties practicing cosmetic surgery in order to develop common goals, encourage education and research, establish standards of practice, and support, augment, and advance the science and art of cosmetic surgery; and
  • by their membership, in the opinion of the Academy’s Board of Trustees, will advance the Academy’s exempt purpose and mission.