What Type of Training is Required to be Board Certified in Cosmetic Surgery?

You know that becoming board certified means that a surgeon has met a certain set of standards for training and experience, but unless you know what those standards are, it’s difficult to make a confident comparison between doctors you may be considering. Before a surgeon can become board certified by us, he or she must complete the following types of training beyond a medical degree:

1. Complete an ACGME or AOA Residency Program in a Related Specialty and Become Board Certified in That Specialty

An ABCS candidate must first complete an approved ACGME or AOA residency program in one of the following surgical specialties: General surgery, Plastic Surgery, Otolaryngology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Ophthalmic or Oral and Maxillofacial surgery. Ophthalmic surgeons must complete an Oculoplastic Surgery Fellowship approved by the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Inc. (ASOPRS) prior to applying to a 2 year general cosmetic surgery fellowship.

He or she must also be board certified in one or more of these specialties before becoming an ABCS surgeon, and thus typically will have to obtain additional practice experience as well as pass rigorous examinations as specified by that board, which must be recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) or the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (ABOMS). In other words, ABCS surgeons are already board certified before applying for a second board certification in the specialty of cosmetic surgery.

2. Complete a Fellowship in Cosmetic Surgery

Once a candidate has completed his or her residency training, they can apply to a cosmetic surgery fellowship. For candidates from surgical specialties in General surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oral and Maxillofacial surgery, Otolaryngology or Plastic Surgery, it is a requirement to complete a one year general cosmetic surgery fellowship. Ophthalmologic surgeons must complete a two year cosmetic surgery fellowship.

Programs must be approved by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, affiliated with an accredited hospital or surgery center, and include a teaching staff surgeon with an academic appointment. Cosmetic surgery fellowship is a full-time program; participants may not conduct concurrent academic work or private practice during their fellowship training. There are currently 21 such programs, and during their year of fellowship training, surgeons obtain the following:

  • Comprehensive training in principles of aesthetics, cosmetic surgery procedures, management of patients during consultation, pre-operative work up, during surgical procedure, post-operative care, and management of complications arising from cosmetic surgery.
  • Additional training in patient care: recognizing psychological issues associated with cosmetic surgery (i.e., body dysmorphic disorder), conducting initial patient consultations, and managing expectations.
  • Additional training in non-invasive modalities such as injection of neurotoxins & fillers, laser skincare, chemical peels, and other cosmetic non-surgical treatments.

Remember, this comprehensive training is all conducted after already completing an approved residency program, which is typically the highest level of post-graduate training required for board certification in a medical specialty, such as the American Board of Plastic Surgery. During a cosmetic surgery fellowship, surgeons must perform at least 300 individual cosmetic surgery cases, including a minimum of:

  • 50 procedures of the body or extremities
  • 50 cosmetic breast surgery procedures
  • 50 dermatologic cosmetic surgeries
  • 50 facial cosmetic surgeries
  • Remaining 100 procedures can be any combination of the above

Only after successfully completing this sequence of training and experience, as well as meeting a number of other requirements, a surgeon may apply to become a diplomate of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery.