The Importance of Choosing A Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

The Importance of Choosing A Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

You’ve likely seen “board-certified plastic surgeon” when doing research on the right plastic surgeon for you. But what exactly does that mean? Let’s take a look at what is required of a board-certified plastic surgeon, how they receive that title, and how you can find out if a surgeon has that distinction.

What Does It Mean To Be Board-Certified?

When a plastic surgeon is board certified like Dr. MacLennan and Dr. Schmidt, it means they’ve met the American Board of Plastic Surgery’s (ABPS) demanding requirements to sit for their boards. After completing an accredited plastic surgery residency training program, they have to pass a written exam and a two-day oral exam. These exams evaluate not only a surgeon’s knowledge of their field but also their ethics and ability to provide safe and effective care.

As you can see from these rigorous demands, receiving a board certification is no easy task, but surgeons who have that distinction have a high level of training and education and do what it takes to ensure their patients are safe and happy with their results.

Be aware of which certification your surgeon has, because not all board certifications are equal. The American Board of Medical Specialities (ABMS) is the most respected certification program in the country and represents 24 broad areas of medicine including specialties like Surgery, Internal medicine, etc. The ABPS is the only board recognized by the ABMS for plastic surgery. Alternative boards, like the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS), don’t have nearly the same requirements for training and ongoing medical education and are not recognized by the ABMS. Additionally, doctors certified in a different specialty, like OB-GYN, may advertise that they are “board-certified” but do not necessarily have the training to be performing plastic surgery procedures.

What Training is Required?

The training required to simply sit for the exams for board certification with the ABPS includes the following:

  • College: 4 years
  • Medical school: 4 years
  • Integrated Residency in Plastic Surgery: 6-7 years

– OR –

Residency in either General Surgery, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, Urology, or Neurosurgery: 5-7 years


Additional residency in Plastic Surgery: 3 years

  • Additional fellowships may be performed in addition to the above training: 1 or more years

How Do You Know If A Plastic Surgeon is Board-Certified?

Checking if your plastic surgeon is board-certified is relatively easy. You can simply go to the American Board of Plastic Surgery website. They have a feature where you can verify a certification. You just need to type their name in and the site will tell you whether they have a board certification in plastic surgery. It will also tell you when they were first certified and if they have continued their certification.

What Is The Difference Between A Certification Board And A Membership Society?

When looking for qualified plastic surgeons, you may see membership societies listed along with a board certification. Societies are professional membership organizations, and the requirements to be in those organizations differ from society to society. If your doctor is a member of professional societies, it usually means that they have exceeded the board certification requirements for their specialty and adhere to additional standards set by the society. To find out what a specific society requires, you can contact them directly or visit their website. In plastic surgery, two of the most important societies are:

  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS): Members must be certified by the ABPS, adhere to a strict code of ethics and safety, complete continuing medical education, and perform surgery in an accredited surgical facility.

  • The Aesthetic Society: Membership is by invitation only and is limited to surgeons who specialize in aesthetic plastic surgery. The society has a commitment to educating surgeons and advancing the field of aesthetic surgery.

What Is The Difference Between Licensure And Certification?

You may also see different licensures when you’re researching plastic surgeons. Licensure is quite different from board certification. A certification is a voluntary and additional credential. It’s not required. A license, on the other hand, is required by law to practice medicine in the United States and is state-specific. A doctor needs one before they can practice any type of medicine in a state.

That said, being licensed does not mean a surgeon or doctor is qualified to practice in a specific specialty like plastic surgery. A board certification from the ABPS tells you that a surgeon has gone above and beyond to learn as much as they can about plastic surgery.

Board-Certified Plastic Surgeons at Mountain Lake Plastic Surgery

At Mountain Lake Plastic Surgery, both our plastic surgeons, Dr. Susan MacLennan and Dr. Alexandra Schmidt, are board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Dr. Susan MacLennan

Dr. MacLennan is not only board-certified by the ABPS, but she is also an Examiner for the Board’s oral exam. She is also an active member of ASPS and The Aesthetic Society, presenting frequently at their annual meetings.

Dr. Alexandra Schmidt

Dr. Schmidt is a board-certified plastic surgeon and has advanced fellowship training in aesthetic plastic surgery. She is also a member of the ASPS and The Aesthetic Society. She has co-authored several peer-reviewed articles on surgical outcomes and written book chapters on different plastic surgery techniques.

Schedule A Consultation

Receive the results you’re looking for under the care of board-certified plastic surgeons at Mountain Lake Plastic Surgery. You could not be in better hands! Schedule a consultation today by calling our Burlington, VT office at (802) 231-4284 or use our online contact form.