Continuing education for plastic surgeons

The human mind is amazing. Even though we know intellectually that we should be doing something, our minds will direct us to procrastinate and put things off to the very last minute. Some say this is because we need that pressure to perform well; others say those types of people are just disorganized. I’m supposed to be taking an online plastic surgery test right now. I have until the end of the week to finish it, but instead I am writing this blog post because…

I have written about other aspects of plastic surgery education and training in the past. See here:

Board certified cosmetic plastic surgeon

Who should perform plastic surgery

Cosmetic surgery by plastic surgeons

Board-certified plastic surgeon

Medical education is a long and Plastic Surgeons keep on learning , arduous process not for the faint of heart. After college, medical school and residency, the fully qualified plastic surgeon will start the process of board certification. A board-certified plastic surgeon is one who has completed a written exam the year of graduation from the residency program and then passed an oral examination where other surgeons review ten of the plastic surgeon’s patient cases after the first two years of surgical practice. The fail rate is about 30%! Surgeons do have a chance to retake it, however.

Board certification in plastic surgery is valid for only ten years. After that, plastic surgeons must retake a written exam and present a synopsis of their surgical cases to the Board for re-certification. I became board-certified in plastic surgery in 1995. I re-certified in 2005, and I will have to take an exam once more in 2015.  A hefty fee, a lot of busy work for my staff and an afternoon in front of a computer will “re-certify” me. That is a poor judge of what type of plastic surgeon I am and whether I am practicing sound and competent cosmetic plastic surgery.

By 2025, I’ll either be retired or dead. If I am still working, I’ll just have to become “not board-certified.” I’m not going to take it again! Most other medical specialties also require re-certification. Here is a link to the American Board of Medical Specialties site for comparison:

Continuing medical education for plastic surgeons

Board certification and re-certification in plastic surgery are distinct and separate requirements for plastic surgeons over and above the usual continuing medical education mandated for privileges at hospitals or medical licenses from states and governments.

All doctors are required to show at least 150 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every two years. Lawyers and other professionals also have similar continuing learning obligations (such as CLE: continuing legal education).

“Education” is achieved by attending conferences, listening to lectures and taking online courses or exams such as the one I am taking this week. This one is provided by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is taken by all residents in plastic surgery and those practitioners that want to keep up with areas of plastic surgery they no longer practice. For example, I was just answering questions on hand surgery, though I stopped performing hand surgery ten years ago.

Continuing education is essential in any field. I want the guy who fixes my car to know the latest technology available and how to use it. That is good and should continue.

As far as I know, no other profession is required to re-certify again every so many years.  Many organizations call “re-certification” the process of acquiring continuing education credits. Doctors have to take a “professional entrance exam” again!

If we are going to ask plastic surgeons and other doctors to re-certify their knowledge every ten years despite the fact that they are practicing (plastic surgery) every day, why do we not have every other professional group do the same? Imagine the uproar if lawyers had to take their Bar exams every ten years! or architects or pharmacists or dentists or… Why don’t they?  By the way, did you know that only 1% of dentists are “board-certified”? See this link:

So what does all this mean?

I know plastic surgeons are special but surely we are not that special.

Now back to that exam.

 Morad Tavallali, M.D., FACS