Making Sense of Certification

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Almost everyone has heard that they should look for “board certification” when seeking a qualified plastic surgeon (or any physician for that matter). Most people don’t really understand exactly what this means and what is involved in becoming “board certified.”

Just because a doctor is “board certified” does not mean they are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Most states can perform cosmetic procedures without being certified in plastics surgery. This means other doctors such as dermatologists, gynecologists and other doctors are performing plastic surgery without having undergone proper training and certifications.

Thus, when choosing a plastic surgeon, it is important to know whether or not the surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. The ABPS is the only board that certifies physicians in plastic surgery of the face and all areas of the body.

Dr. Kim-Chi Vu is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. In order for her to be board certified by the ABPS, she had to graduate from an accredited medical school, did her internship and residency in general surgery for five years, then completed two years of approved residency in plastic and reconstructive surgery, practiced for a minimum of two years after graduation, then passed an extensive written and oral board examinations which include a review of all the cases she performed in the past year by the members of ABPS.

Dr Vu is also a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, where Dr Vu is required to attend continuing medical education courses and meetings regularly and to adhere to strict code of ethics in her practice as a plastic surgeon.

Even fewer people know about certification of operating facilities, who certifies them and what protection such certification offers. We believe patients need this information to make informed choices in their search for the right surgeon, surgery facility and anesthesia provider.

At our office, we have gone to great effort and expense to ensure the highest standard of safety for our patients. As you consider plastic surgery, we hope the following information will help you to evaluate the choices available to you.

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is the agency which oversees subspecialty boards. More than 100 “boards” have been submitted to the ABMS for formal approval, but only 24 have met their strict educational and examination criteria. They are as follows:

Allergy and Immunology
Colon and Rectal Surgery
Emergency Medicine
Family Practice
Internal Medicine
Medical Genetics
Neurological Surgery
Nuclear Medicine
Obstetrics and Gynecology

Orthopedic Surgery
Otolaryngology ( ear, nose, and throat)
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Plastic Surgery*
Preventive Medicine
Psychiatry and Neurology
Thoracic Surgery

The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only ABMS board that has traditionally overseen the training and certification of cosmetic and reconstructive surgeons.

You may call the ABMS at 1-866-275-2267 or visit their website at to see if your surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Give them the name of your surgeon and they will tell you if and when he or she was certified. Certification by other boards does not give you the same protection. Other boards have less strict criteria for certification and some require only a fee. A few of the boards which have not been approved by the ABMS are as follows: