Any physician can call himself a “cosmetic surgeon” or “plastic surgeon”, regardless of training or experience. It is also legal for physicians with no surgical training to call themselves plastic surgeons. The Federal Trade Commission has blocked attempts by the medical profession to control who performs different types of surgery as a “restraint of trade”.

As with any surgery, you should find a surgeon who has undergone the necessary years of formal surgical residency training in a teaching hospital.

Residencies are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), and lead to examination and specialty certification by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), through its member Boards, including the American Board of Plastic Surgery. There is no ACGME approved residency or ABMS member board in “cosmetic surgery” or “facial plastic and reconstructive surgery”. “Plastic surgery within the head and neck” is a sub-specialty certificate granted by the American Board of Otolaryngology (the ENT board) to board certified otolaryngologists.

Plastic surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery are trained in the full range of aesthetic plastic surgical procedures. Board certified plastic surgeons have had a minimum of 5 years of surgical residency after medical school (many of us have additional training, spending 8 or 9 years in preparation after medical school). After several years in practice, they then have to pass rigorous oral and written examinations set by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

When choosing a surgeon, it is therefore very important to make sure he or she is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. (Also referred to as a Diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery.) Ask to see the certificate, or check the certification with the American Board of Plastic Surgery (1-215-587-9322) or the American Board of Medical Specialties (, as some surgeons falsely claim certification. (The Medical Board of California does not regard this as a serious infraction!!!)

Membership in other organizations does not guarantee that someone is board certified in plastic surgery. For example, the majority of members of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery are not certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

In addition, your surgeon should be on the staff of the better local hospitals, with surgical privileges in the procedure(s) you are considering. You can check this with their medical staff office. Also, check with the Medical Board of California (1-916-263-2382) regarding prior disciplinary actions. Never be afraid to ask a plastic surgeon about their certification or experience. Well-qualified individuals are proud to tell you about the years of preparation they have had.

Another source of information is the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. They operate a referral service through their website at , and can give you a selection of board certified plastic surgeons in the Orange County (or any other) area. The website also contains much useful information.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons logo

The symbol to the right designates surgeons who are Active members of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. They are certified in the specialty of plastic surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and are dedicated to the highest standards of patient welfare and surgical excellence.

Finally, remember that your safety depends on four members of the team:

  • You – following surgical instructions
  • Your surgeon
  • Your anesthesiologist, preferably certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology
  • The hospital or surgicenter where you have your operation.

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