Why Board Certification Matters When Choosing a Plastic Surgeon

How much research do you do when you are looking for a home remodeler? How about a hairdresser? Plumber? Landscaper? There’s a lot of online resources for some of those things like Angieslist.com. You may turn to YELP, or Google reviews for some stuff. You may even just ask friends. Stuff like that is perfectly ok. What about a plastic surgeon?

If you are going to have a person operate on your body and alter your appearance it most certainly is a “big deal.” Certainly your body is more dear to you than your lawn. Yes, even Angie’s List has a section for plastic surgeons. Problem is, anyone can put reviews down for a plastic surgeon. Does that mean you should trust them? Do they have board certification? Some of them don’t. Does it matter? Yes. Yes, it does.

Most plastic surgery is elective surgery, meaning it is planned in advance, not in an emergency situation. Most physicians will advertise that they are board certified as part of their credentials and attributes. In order to operate on a heart a cardiac surgeon has to be fully trained and  board certified. So, is it right to assume that board certification is a necessity for cosmetic surgeons? Nope. Not one bit.  AH! Now we’re getting somewhere.

Every doctor (MD or DO) who graduates from medical school has earned their medical degree (Medical Doctor or Doctor of Osteopathy). Both may diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medicine, and operate on patients (if they specialize in surgery). However, they can’t do this until they under go lots more training after medical school.

After medical school these doctors must begin and complete an internship year. At the end of their internship all doctors, regardless of their chosen specialty, have to pass a test administrated by the NATIONAL BOARD OF MEDICAL EXAMINERS. If they pass they are now certified by that board and are eligible to practice as a physician in the United States. Step 1 completed.

However, there are very few “general practitioners” in the medical field today. Most also go through additional residency training in one of twenty four core fields of study. Most doctors tend to go through an additional two or more years of residency training after their internship is completed. Those specialties are (but not limited to) Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Ear-Nose-Throat, Podiatry, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, etc…

ABMS logo

There are twenty four specialties that make up the AMERICAN BOARD OF MEDICAL SPECIALTIES They are as follows:

  • American Board of Allergy and Immunology
  • American Board of Anesthesiology
  • American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery
  • American Board of Dermatology
  • American Board of Emergency Medicdine
  • American Board of Family Medicine
  • American Board of Internal Medicine
  • American Board of Genetics and Genomics
  • American Board of Neurological Surgery
  • American Board of Nuclear Medicine
  • American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • American Board of Ophthalmology
  • American Board of Orthopedic Surgery
  • American Board of Otolaryngology
  • American Board of Pathology
  • American Board of Pediatrics
  • American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • American Board of Plastic Surgery
  • American Board of Preventive Medicine
  • American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
  • American Board of Radiology
  • American Board of Surgery
  • American Board of Thoracic Surgery
  • American Board of Urology

You may have noted that there isn’t one for Cosmetic Surgery.

Each of these boards have their own set of criteria, standard, and training for members to be board certified. They specialties are widely different and deservedly so. What makes a good Pediatrician may not make a good Podiatrist. Put another way, you don’t want a Urologist to operate on your spine.

What we are getting at here is this: It’s not just that a doctor is board certified. But are they certified in what you need them to be? So, really it’s: Are you board certified? By what specialty board, and is that an ABMS member board?

Every doctor’s state license is the exact same thing. They are licensed to practice Medicine and Surgery. State licenses DO NOT regulate residency training. Practice in each specialty includes detailed lists of permitted procedures; so, a Medical Doctor who is fully trained and Board Certified in Internal Medicine is not allowed to perform surgery, and would be heavily fined and maybe even fired from a hospital if they did perform surgery. From a state license point of view it makes it vague because of the generic statement: practice medicine and surgery.

Here’s a surprising fact: Cosmetic surgery IS NOT one of the twenty four specialties of board certification from the ABMS. Oooookayyy? Doctors of other specialties can perform certain cosmetic operations. An Ophthalmologist can perform eyelid surgery if they have taken the specialty training in Oculoplastic Surgery. A general surgeon can remove certain skin cancers but may not perform more complex reconstructive surgery. Dermatologists may also undergo specialty training and become a Dermatologic Surgeon. That doesn’t make any of these doctors Board Certified Plastic Surgeons.

That is why such plastic surgeon “lites” created their own (non-ABMS) “American Board of Cosmetic Surgery” and bestowed upon themselves “Board-certification.” This “board” also admits Gynecologists, General Surgeons, ENT doctors, and physicians of other ABMS specialties for “Board-certification in Cosmetic Surgery.” The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is NOT an ABMS member Board! This is important.

The reality is the American Board of Medical Specialties does NOT have a Board of Cosmetic Surgery because they ALREADY HAVE one member Board that certifies surgical specialists in plastic and reconstructive surgery:   THE AMERICAN BOARD OF PLASTIC SURGERY 


The reason why this is important is some well meaning physicians are not properly trained enough to call themselves Plastic Surgeons, even though they can do one or two small procedures. This isn’t about grousing around other doctors horning in on a real cosmetic surgeon’s turf. It’s more about true ethics, being honest with your patients, and ultimately separating the true professionals with the “wannabees” who are looking to expand their practices in areas where they aren’t as skilled as a true cosmetic surgeon.

What this boils down to is Board Certification is important. But it is equally as important to know which board is doing the certifying. Any surgeon who calls themselves a Plastic or Cosmetic Surgeon should be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and not some board made up of people certifying themselves and performing things that have little to nothing to do with actual reconstructive surgery.

Both Dr’s Ted and Marc Ortega ARE CERTIFIED BY THE AMERICAN BOARD OF PLASTIC SURGERY  Dr. Ted is also  Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He is a member of the Florida Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, American Medical Association, Florida Medical Association, Philippine Association of Plastic Surgeons and the Escambia Medical Association. He served as Chairman of the Department of Surgery for Sacred Heart Hospital from 1992-1993.

Dr. Marc is a Member of American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Department of Surgery Chairmanship, 2007-2009
Member of Credentialling Committee (Leadership), 2010-2012.

The surgeons at ORTEGA PLASTIC SURGERY have the correct board certifications, the longevity, and experience that you require when you are looking for a Plastic Surgeon.