Choosing a Plastic Surgeon, Part II – Checking Credentials

Woman considering choices

(Excerpted from Dr. Peter Adamson’s book Fabulous Faces (available on and edited for our blog.)


In my last blog post on choosing a plastic surgeon, I explained how you might gather a short list of doctor names referred by friends and your other doctors, and then research these names on the internet. With that list, you should then do a bit of investigating into the medical credentials of the top two or three names on your list. This process has two key steps:

Make sure that your doctor is certified in his or her specialty.

Determine if he or she specializes in the procedures that you’re interested in.

At first glance, it may seem like a difficult and confusing task. You’ll discover any or all of the following:

Plastic surgeons who operate everywhere on the body, including facelifts, breast implants, tummy tucks, liposuction, and a lot more

Facial plastic surgeons who specialize in facial work

Ophthalmologists who do oculoplastic surgery (plastic surgery around the eye)

Otolaryngologists who have specific training in head and neck surgery

Dermatologists who do reconstructive work on patients recovering from cancer surgery, as well as other cosmetic treatments (e.g., facial fillers, neuromodulators, lasers)

Oral surgeons who specialize in upper and lower jaw surgery to improve facial deformities, which can be both cosmetic and reconstructive

A host of specialties, subspecialties, and superspecialties

An alphabet soup of initials after doctors’ names

Several different types of specialists provide excellent cosmetic surgery care. All have completed medical school (or dental school, for oral surgeons) and some type of specialty training (surgical or medical). Many will have taken superspecialty training in cosmetic surgery. Most surgeons train for twelve to seventeen years, which involves at least eighty hours a week.


There are many different certifying or credentialing boards and colleges, regulatory and licensing boards, academies, and associations. The ABFPRS is the certifying board for facial plastic surgery. Both American and Canadian otolaryngologists—head and neck surgeons and plastic surgeons are eligible. Other surgeons certified by their otolaryngology—head and neck surgery or plastic surgery boards may also specialize in facial plastic surgery. To be certified by these organizations, doctors must have gone through extensive plastic and reconstructive surgery training and residency, and passed comprehensive written and oral examinations. Some ophthalmologists specialize in oculoplastic or ophthalmic plastic surgery around the eye. They’re certified by the ABMS in the United States and RCPS in Canada.

In the United States, a physician or surgeon can usually receive a state medical licence to practice in his or her specialty once his or her residency training is completed. In Canada, a surgeon must complete the training program and pass a credentialing exam through the RCPS to obtain his or her FRCSC (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada). A doctor who is board-certified by the ABFPRS in the United States or Canada is a specialist in facial plastic surgery. In the United States, the doctor will, as a prerequisite, be certified by the ABMS in otolaryngology—head and neck surgery or plastic surgery. In Canada, the doctor will also require primary certification by the RCPS in either otolaryngology—head and neck surgery or plastic surgery.

The use of specialist titles is regulated to varying degrees in different states and provinces. “Cosmetic surgeons” may or may not have had formal plastic surgery training (or even surgical training).

Medical Boards and Associations

If you have any doubt or concern about the credentials of a doctor on your short list, check with the professional associations that represent plastic surgeons. These include: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS); American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ABFPRS); American Board of Medical Specialties; American Medical Association (AMA) and Canadian Medical Association (CMA); American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS); Canadian Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (CAFPRS); Canadian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery; Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB); and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (RCPS). State Medical Boards and Provincial Colleges are licensing boards for physicians and surgeons. Check your state or province for contact information on these.

In my next blog post, I will talk about those red flags to look for when choosing a facial plastic surgeon. There is a lot of competition out there, so you need to be wary of a few warning signs.

Thank you for reading and call our office if you have any questions about cosmetic surgery or treatments.

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