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Continuous Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery includes continuous Self-Assessment and Practice Improvement throughout the ten year certification period.

What is Continuous Certification?

Before 1996, Board Certification Certificates issued by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) were lifetime. Certificates issued since 1995 are valid for ten years and all requirements must be met in order to continue certification for an additional ten year period. Initially this meant a recertification exam every ten years, but now it means continuous certification with specific tasks and shorter examinations every year.

My ABPS Continuous Certification

I received my first Board Certification in 1997, so every year I must pay a fee and complete a list of requirements. One facet of the requirements is that every April I have to take another examination. Below are my results.

The American Board of Plastic Surgery Continuous Recertification

The American Board of Plastic Surgery provides continuous recertification for public safety.

Other Board Certifications

Some Cosmetic Surgeons have other certifications. Sometimes, these are in addition to the ABPS Certification. More worrisome, sometimes, these are instead of ABPS Certification.

American Board of Surgery Certification - Dr. Mele

The American Board of Surgery also requires recertification.

In my case, I am Double Board Certified, by both the ABPS and the American Board of Surgery. Before my three year fellowship in Plastic Surgery, I completed a full residency in General Surgery, including a chief resident year. This makes me eligible for Board Certification by the American Board of Surgery (ABS). I obtained my Surgery Boards in 1995, and have recertified three times. Beginning in 2025, I will be required to move to continuous certification for this board as well.

Other Board Certifications

There is a lot of overlap between Plastic Surgery and other specialties. In 1937, the American Board of Plastic Surgery was formed primarily by General Surgeons and Otolaryngologists (Ear Nose of Throat Surgeons) who specialized in plastic and reconstructive surgery. Plastic Surgeons have pioneered reconstructive surgery such as breast reconstruction, hand surgery, wound care, burn reconstruction and the treatment of congenital anomalies, and cosmetic surgery, which has increased in acceptance over the last thirty years.

Most specialties are divided anatomically; however, plastic surgery, like general surgery, treats the entire body, and has no specific anatomic home. Other specialty boards are limited to specific areas of the body, for example the American Board of Ophthalmology treats the eyes and their supporting structures. The American Board of Otolaryngology covers the ears, nose and throat. There are very good specialists with training in these areas who do both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery very well.

Not All “Boards” Are Created Equal

Anyone can start a board, and the board titles can be confusing, if not misleading. The Boards mentioned above are all official American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) recognized specialty boards. The ABMS recognition is the “gold standard” of professional medical boards. Online, the ABMS lists the Member Boards.

The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery sounds perfect, but it is not an ABMS recognized board; moreover, members tend to have the less training, in fact. only one year is required, much less than the other boards listed above. Moreover, the one year may be the only year of surgical training received.

Less is not More

Some people believe that limiting the number of operations one performs makes them better at it. I do not agree. It make as much sense as saying a jazz musician cannot play rock. A good musician can cover many styles of music, because they are good with their instrument. Other specialties will use words like General Plastic Surgeon, to make it seem like Plastic Surgeons are less specialized and thus less qualified. At best, this is a sign of insecurity, at worst it is purposefully misleading.

Skin tightening surgeries (facelifts, arm lifts, breast lifts, tummy tucks, or thigh lifts) all require the use of the same instruments, surgical principals and must follow anatomical rules, so there is a lot of cross-over knowledge. In addition, there is an advantage to having a doctor-patient relationship with a surgeon who is well versed in multiple surgeries and techniques should you desire more than one operation. Consider also that Plastic Surgeons wanted to do Plastic Surgery before starting their training, not as an afterthought.

Board Certification Matters

American Board of Plastic Surgery Certification Logo

The logo above may only be used by surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Your results depend primarily on the training and experience of your surgeon. If your surgeon is well trained in the procedure you are seeking, and has sufficient experience, the chances of a good result are enhanced. Board Certification is one way to check on your chosen surgeons training. It is not the only way, but it might be the easiest way. You should check your surgeon’s board certifications and state medical license status on-line. It’s quick and it’s easy. Here are some handy links:

Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Consultations

In the San Francisco Bay Area call (925) 943-6353 to schedule a private consultation appointment in our Walnut Creek Plastic Surgery office. For a list of the procedures we offer and before and after pictures search this blog by category or visit our main website at

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