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Understanding Physician Board Certification


Before signing up for any medical procedure, be it general surgery or cosmetic surgery, patients are advised to research their surgeons so as to know the level of care they can provide to meet a certain standard. When researching, one may notice that a doctor or surgeon is “board-certified,” but what does this mean?

This term basically shows that a physician is qualified and has met the requirements of a recognized medical board for certification. It is not enough that a physician has a medical license. A medical board certification goes well beyond a medical license and has great significance.

Are All Doctors Board-Certified?

Before any doctor can become board-certified, whether that doctor is a primary care physician or a specialist, they have to meet the requirements for membership before joining a medical “board”. Meeting membership requirements demonstrates a doctor’s level of competency and enhances his or her career and esteem standing among patients and colleagues.

It is approximated that 90% of all practicing physicians in America are board-certified. A board-certified doctor is a guarantee that he or she has met a minimum competency requirement, something that cannot be said for those that are not board-certified. If a doctor is non-certified, he or she may be less or more competent. It is not enough to assume that a non-certified doctor is not qualified. There are a number of reasons why a physician may not be board-certified, such as:

  • Failure to meet the board requirements
  • Being turned down for membership
  • Not applying for their certification credentials

Board Certified Plastic Surgeons

There are special boards that are set to ensure the highest standards for surgeons in the specialty of cosmetic surgery. Before a plastic surgeon can become board certified, there are a few board standard requirements he or she has to meet. In order to meet these requirements, a physician has to:

  • Have their knowledge and experience in cosmetic surgery tested
  • Have completed a 1-2 year certified fellowship
  • Pass a comprehensive 2-day written and oral exam covering all aspects of cosmetic surgery
  • Have additional profound training in non-surgical cosmetic procedures such as skincare, laser resurfacing and Botox & fillers
  • Perform a set number of cosmetic surgery procedures of the body, breast and face

The Difference Between Board Certified and Licensed

Every state in the U.S has a licensing system for physicians in place. In order to practice in a particular state, every physician must be licensed in that state. The requirements to get a practice license are not as stringent as those for certification boards. Licensed doctors or physicians are not necessarily members of an AOA or ABMS member board, but doctors who are AOA and ABMS board-certified are all licensed.

As a patient, it is prudent to understand the importance and the background of board certification for medical specialties. You also need to do a further research on a potential doctor’s or physician’s board certification to learn more about what competencies you can expect from that practitioner.

This article was not written by Dr. Robert S. Fischer M.D and may not represent his views. To talk to Dr. Robert S. Fischer M.D. please contact the office directly.