You might ask, “What exactly does it mean when a physician says he or she is 'Board Certified'? Who is making the rules for that certification and why is it important to me?”
Well, this important distinction can be very important when you are selecting a doctor or surgeon to provide your medical care. After all, don't you want the most trained and skilled physician in charge of your care?
Let's look at the distinctions. First of all, there is a difference between being a medical licensed doctor and being a board-certified physician. All physicians are required to have a medical license, which mean specific standards and educational goals have been achieved, in order to practice medicine. However, holding a board certification is a voluntary process a physician chooses to pursue, which demonstrates a mastery of his or her specialty. A physician does not have to be board certified to practice medicine or to do surgery.
In order to become Board Certified, a physician must meet a rigorous set of educational and professional standards and testing designed to ensure a physician has attained a top level of professional skills and abilities to treat patients in a chosen specialty. The American Board of Medical Specialties, which is made up of 24 specialty boards, including the American Board of Plastic Surgery, is the overseeing organization that collaborates with the specialty boards to set uncompromising standards that must be maintained by board-certified physicians. ABPS is the only Board recognized by the ABMS to certify doctors in the specialty of plastic surgery.
Further, only ABPS diplomates can call themselves a Plastic Surgeon. Other countries have their own governing boards. Cosmetic surgeons who claim to be board-certified may have received their certificate from the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, which is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties and has a much lesser set of standards. Alternatively, they may be certified by their specialty board, which may not even be a surgical specialty, such as internal medicine. Cosmetic surgeons referring to themselves as board-certified can be misleading if you don't know the right questions to ask.
The ABPS, which is the board certification Dr. Ratliff has achieved, has very stringent educational and professional standards and testing requirements that must be achieved before board certification is awarded. For example, a candidate is required to have graduated from an accredited medical school and completed at least five year of surgical residency training in a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada. In addition, the surgical residency must cover all areas of surgery, with at least three years in plastic surgery.
On their website (abplasticsurgery.org), ABPS goes on to explain, that unlike other certifications, in order to be board certified by the ABPS, physicians are trained in the entire spectrum of plastic surgery, including cosmetic, reconstructive, craniomaxillofacial and hand surgery, and they complete examinations that cover plastic surgery of the entire body. In addition, physicians who become board certified must continue to maintain high educational and professional standards and must be recertified every 10 years. According to their website, ABPS has issued over 9,000 certificates since 1937.