The Importance of Board Certification

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Many physicians offering cosmetic surgery state they are "board-certified," but what does that really mean? It's critical that you ask about the specific board and field in which they are certified. These days, there's unfortunately no requirement that cosmetic surgery be performed by a physician who's actually trained in the discipline. In fact, cosmetic procedures are not just offered by board-certified Chicago plastic surgeons, but by physicians of every stripe, including dermatologists, gynecologists, ophthalmologists, oral surgeons, and physicians initially trained in other fields.

Meet Dr. Steinwald

Paul M. Steinwald, M.D., is one of the few plastic surgeons in Chicago who is double board certified in both plastic and general surgery. Read On

If you're not careful, you could find yourself being operated on by someone who has had no formal training in plastic surgery, and has met no requirement to prove their knowledge and skill in exams and peer reviews. Worse yet, many of these physicians offering plastic surgery are ill-prepared to deal with the complications that tend to be more numerous and severe when under-qualified surgeons are performing these sophisticated procedures. The good news is that, with just a small investment of time to learn a few basics, you'll be in great position to choose a qualified plastic surgeon in Chicago who will deliver beautiful results and safeguard your health.

If you're already convinced of the importance of board certification in plastic surgery, and take extra comfort in knowing that Dr. Steinwald has also maintained his general surgery certification, call (847) 234-9464 or (312) 988-9330 today to schedule your confidential appointment.

Ask Which Board

As you research surgeons, many will say they're "board certified," but by which board? Make sure that the certification they are talking about is by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). This will tell you that your surgeon has:

  • Attained a four-year college degree
  • Attained a degree from an accredited medical school
  • Successfully completed a minimum of three years of surgical internship and residency, and completed an accredited residency specifically in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Practiced plastic surgery for at least two years
  • Passed extensive oral and written exams and peer reviews, involving specific cases chosen by and presented to this group during the board certification process

The ABPS is overseen by the umbrella organization of The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), whose role is to oversee the specialty boards and assist them in developing and maintaining training requirements and physician standards. The American Board of Plastic Surgery, one of an elite group of "member boards" of the ABMS, is the only organization that certifies physicians in "head to toe" plastic and reconstructive surgery. They also require that diplomates (approved members) of the ABPS participate in "Maintenance of Certification", during which real-world case lists and results are reviewed, and additionally, they require that diplomates recertify via a rigorous comprehensive written exam, on average every 10 years.

Some cosmetic surgeons will claim membership and "board certification" by organizations that have NOT been approved for membership in the ABMS. A few of these include the:

  • American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • American Association for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
  • American Board of Cosmetic Surgery
  • American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
  • American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

While some members of these groups may individually be excellent plastic surgeons in Barrington or Highland Park, IL, membership in these groups does not necessarily imply that they have met the exacting standards of a society such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (which only allows members board certified by the ABPS). Unfortunately, these groups do not help make that distinction for the public, and instead such designations are often deliberately used in a manner to imply that a set of professional standards have been met (particularly when applied to cosmetic surgery), so that their members may appear, in the public eye, as competent as and/or competitive with formally trained plastic surgeons.

"I was referred to Dr. Steinwald by a couple of friends who have had surgery with him. After doing some research and reviewing his credentials, much to my surprise he is double board certified, which is a big bonus!"

– Theresa, breast revision patient

"Double" Board Certification

In addition to being certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, Dr. Steinwald has earned certification from the American Board of Surgery. What does this mean? Many plastic surgeons (both recently graduated and more established) went through only three years of general surgery as a prerequisite for plastic surgery training, during which they were usually following a more senior resident surgeon's orders, and weren't given the chance to truly run a service or manage patients as a Chief Resident, which is a prime opportunity to mature and "put it all together." Conversely, most physicians who finish a general surgery residency have more or less "seen it all," including severe trauma and the management of very ill patients in the Intensive Care Unit, and consequently are able to manage almost any surgical or critical care problem.

While Dr. Steinwald may not be taking out thyroid glands, gall bladders or colon cancers anymore, this experience was nonetheless invaluable in his maturation and development as a surgeon. He continues to attend general surgery-based conferences and review charts regarding general surgery complications in his capacity as Vice Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. Dr. Steinwald also recertified in General Surgery (a certificate good for 10 years) by passing a comprehensive written examination in 2009, after which he also achieved Plastic Surgery recertification in 2010.

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