This is a term that most of you are familiar with, but what does it mean? First of all, not every so-called board is real. The only boards that mean anything to medical peers are those that are recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties and there are, of course, a number of them.
What is a Board Certification?
The ones that concern us at this point are the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Plastic Surgery. To become board certified in a specialty requires a number of things. The doctor must complete medical school and specialty training in that specialty. He then becomes board eligible and is able to take an examination given by his peers to become board certified.
There is a written part of the examination and a practical or oral part each usually lasting a day. If one does not pass the written part, he cannot take the oral examination. If he passes both he is then board certified in that specialty. That is very important to remember—he is board certified (i.e. his peers deemed him capable) in that specialty only. Board certification in one specialty does not confer any expertise in any other.
Why does it matter?
A physician board certified in dermatology is not certified, e.g. to deliver babies and someone board certified in OB/GYN is not certified to perform dermatologic or cosmetic procedures. It is also important for you to know that even though there are doctors who advertise that they are board certified in cosmetic surgery, that board is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
Some doctors take courses given by various societies over weekend periods and are given exams by them and become board certified by them in cosmetic surgery, but cosmetic surgery is not a recognized specialty and the societies do not comply with all the requirements of the authorities.
The primary lesson here is that if you are seeing a doctor and he tells you he is board certified, you need to ask him in which specialty and be sure he is what you are looking for. If he is board certified in internal medicine, that does not necessarily qualify him to perform any cosmetic procedure on you and if you are told he is board certified in cosmetic surgery, you need to ask how that determination was made. It is then up to you as to whether or not you wish to proceed with whatever you are contemplating.
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