Dr. Saber’s Blog

What Does “Board Certified Doctor” Mean And How Will It Affect You?

Most plastic surgery procedures are elective. They are sought after by the patient directly. There are no consultations with your family physician or referrals from your healthcare network. Instead, many just ask their friends for “a name” or find a local surgeon on a Facebook ad or local directory.

Nothing wrong with this method, of course — as long as you do a full background check. One of the most important “seals of approval” you should look for is board certification. But what makes a board-certified physician better, or safer? Is my surgeon board certified? Is it illegal to go to a surgeon who isn’t?

Let’s take a closer look at what board certification and other types of accreditation mean.

What is board certification?

In the U.S. healthcare system, board certification is the highest certificate a doctor can have within their specialty.

Board certification means a medical specialist — a surgeon, pediatrician, OB/GYN, plastic surgeon, and so on — has gone above and beyond the minimum requirements to excel in a particular field.  

Board certification does not guarantee 100% success with every patient (nothing does that). However, it ensures your doctor can provide a high quality of care and is keeping up with the latest advancements in their field.

Who grants board certifications?

This will depend on the specialty. Currently, there are 24 organizations within the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The ABSM member boards are all non-profit private organizations: they’re not run by the government, they don’t fall within the FDA, and they don’t depend on any hospital group.

Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

A parallel organization, the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) also provides guidance to 16 more specialty boards. Between the ABMS and ABPS, there is now an independent organization that oversees most medical niches, from internal medicine to pediatric surgery.

Each ABMS board has its own requirements for practicing physicians. However, they’ve all agreed to follow similar procedures. This ensures their prestige is maintained across all fields.

A board-certified doctor needs a medical degree (either as an MD or DO) and an unrestricted medical license — that is, they’ve had no incidents of negligence and can practice full-time without direct supervision.

In addition, board certification requires doctors to:

  • Complete a residency or fellowship after graduating.
  • Present letters from their residency program.
  • Sit a written certification exam.
  • Renew their board membership periodically.

Licensure versus certification

After a new “cosmetic surgery horror story” arises, media coverage often points out that “the doctor is not board-certified.” So, does this mean they were practicing illegally?

This is a common source of confusion when examining medical credentials. Being “board certified” in a specialty is different and separate from being licensed to practice medicine.

Medical licenses are granted by any of the 71 medical boards within the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSBM).

Despite the similar name, these state boards are separate from specialty boards. A medical license from a state board means:

  • Your doctor has graduated from an accredited medical or osteopathic school.
  • They have completed at least one year of internship.
  • They have passed their medical board examination exam (USMLE).

Before we sign any prescription or provide any type of professional advice, we need to be licensed to practice as physicians by the local State Medical Board. This is mandatory: if you pretend or imply you’re a “medical doctor” without this license, you can go to jail.

But do you have to be board certified to be a surgeon? No. Being board-certified is entirely voluntary (although highly encouraged). Board certification requires a valid medical license in good standing, but a medical license doesn’t require board certification.

Top boards for plastic surgery

The ABMS only recognizes one specialty board per specialty, the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). This is the most widely-recognized certificate for plastic surgeons.

However, there are other boards that oversee plastic, cosmetic, or reconstructive surgeons. Their names also provide strong backing for any surgeon, but their scope may be slightly different:

  • The American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ABFPRS), for surgeons who specialize in facial procedures.
  • The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS) for surgeons who only perform cosmetic operations.
  • The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), which focuses on research.

Members of any of these organizations should also be Fellows of the American College of Surgeons (FACS). Watch out for these acronyms next to a doctor’s signature: it means the doctor has completed a surgical residency program, has done extra exams, and is committed to a strict code of ethics.

Whenever you meet with a plastic surgeon for the first time, make sure to ask about any of these certifications.

In some cases, you may see a doctor say they’re “board eligible” or BE. Eligibility means this doctor has already completed all the training required by their chosen board, but they haven’t passed the certification exam.

How should a plastic surgeon train?

With all that we’ve said so far, the U.S. medical education system is probably among the most prestigious in the world. But no matter how prestigious their medical school may be, no new doctor will graduate knowing how to perform a BBL or a breast reduction right away.

In fact, the path to becoming a plastic surgeon is a long one:

  • First, they should graduate from an accredited medical or osteopathy program.
  • Then, they should start their internship and obtain a license.
  • Next, they should apply for a surgical residency of at least three years.
  • Finally, they can “top off” their residency training with an extra two years of just plastic surgery.

After this long path, some plastic surgeons can also pursue a “fellowship.” This will provide them with direct experience in a subspecialty (such as skin grafts, facial surgeries, or breast ones). During this time, they will assist a more experienced surgeon and work with them closely.

Why does board certification matter?

From an outsider’s perspective, board certification may seem like an additional bureaucratic hurdle. After all, it isn’t mandatory — so if a doctor chooses not to have it, why hold it against them?

As a patient, looking for a board-certified surgeon will provide you with:

Simpler background checks

Ideally, all patients would always investigate the doctors they work with. This goes beyond checking for a fake degree. Most of the practical medical knowledge we gain comes from internships or residencies — but calling hospitals around the country to collect references is unrealistic.

Board certification takes away a lot of this stress from you. If I say I “trained at Stanford,” and have the ABPS seal in my office, then you can rest assured the board already checked for you. You’ll also be certain that I trained in plastic surgery, and that I’m not, for example, a specialist in gynecology or dermatology who does butt implants on the side.

Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

Extensive experience

Any procedure is easier after you’ve done it 20 times. The value of experience is even bigger in plastic surgery, where results often hinge on very delicate touches and a well-rounded sense of taste.

To become board-certified with the ABPS, doctors need to show references from the plastic surgeons they trained under. We also need to submit lists of previous cases or surgeries that we’ve worked on, and sit an oral exam where we’re asked about our previous success rates.

In short, a board-certified plastic surgeon will already have extra experience under their belt. This experience and confidence mean we won’t be “learning with you” when you plan a procedure. It also means we know our limits and have had more opportunities to look at what’s graceful or natural — which will keep you away from a “diaper booty” or an asymmetrical breast implant.

Lower complication rates

The commitment to professionalism provided by a board certification can also be viewed in numbers. Currently, about half of all surgical complications happen due to “provider error,” or a mistake on behalf of the surgeon.

However, several studies show that board-certified surgeons are less likely to make these mistakes. Surgeons who start the prep work for board certification early in their career have lower rates of severe complications or death. They are also less likely to have unusually high rates of adverse events during their career.

A commitment to excellence

Board certification is time-consuming. A doctor who goes through that process, and who always files for recertification in time, is one who is “crossing all their Ts.” That same detail-oriented attitude and willingness to go above the minimum requirements will show in other aspects of their career. And isn’t that the kind of person you’d like in charge of your looks and health?

How to check if a surgeon is board certified?

All the advantages mentioned above will only matter if you are certain your surgeon is actually board-certified. As part of their larger commitment to transparency, specialty boards make that job easier for you.

All ABMS member boards work with a single, unified platform for patients. At CertificationMatters, you can look up any surgeon by area and name. Within seconds, you’ll be able to see if they’re in good standing with their board, if their license is valid, and whether they have any restrictions or investigations.

If they’re certified with a board that falls under the ABPS, you can run a similar search on ABPS.

Dr. Sepideh Saber: Setting the bar for professionalism in plastic surgery in the Los Angeles area

Dr. Sepideh Saber, MD, FACS is one of Los Angeles’ leading plastic surgeons. As a board-certified professional, she is committed to putting her expertise in service to patients of all genders, ages, and orientations.

After graduating from Stanford University’s medical school, she completed a residency at the University of Southern California and a fellowship at New York University. Overall, she trained for over ten years in plastic and reconstructive microsurgery.

To get in touch, call (877) 205-4100 or schedule a consultation online.

The practice of Dr. Saber is located in Encino, CA for patients throughout the Los Angeles area. We are also convenient to Encino, Woodland Hills, Sherman Oaks, Calabasas, Burbank, Glendale, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills, Northridge, North Hollywood, Malibu, Topanga, Canoga Park, Reseda, Valley Glen, Chatsworth, West Hills, Winnetka, Universal City, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Downtown Los Angeles, Silverlake, and Echo Park.

Dr. Saber graduated from Stanford University’s world-renowned medical school and did her plastic and reconstructive surgery residency at the equally lauded University of Southern California. She then completed a fellowship at New York University in the extremely challenging and delicate disciplines of hand surgery and microsurgery.

Dr. Saber offers a more sensitive, female perspective for patients of all ages, genders, and orientations. Former patients from all walks of life have praised not only their treatment outcomes but her caring, thoughtful approach to a wide array of appearance and health-related matters.
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    Dr. Sepideh Saber, MD, FACS

    👩🏻‍⚕️ Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
    🏫 Stanford/USC/NYU Trained
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    ✨ Our patient came in for a Breast lift, Liposuction of the abdomen and flanks, and fat transfer to the breast . 

Her after photo is only 6 weeks Post- Op. 
We absolutely love her results✨

Give us a call to set up a complimentary consultation with #DrSaber who will create a customized plan for you!

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    ✨ Our beautiful patient came in for a Tummy Tuck, Rectus muscle and repair. ✨

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    ✨Our patient came in for an Abdominoplasty with Liposuction of the abdomen and flanks. 

 Her results show her 3.5 weeks after her surgery.✨

Give us a call to set up a complimentary consultation with #DrSaber who will create a customized plan for you!
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  • What patients say about Dr. Saber

    Over 16 Reviews

    I was fortunate to find Dr. Saber after researching board-certified surgeons who specialize in breast cancer reconstruction revision surgery. I knew I was in good hands from the moment I spoke with the lovely and efficient Marlene, Dr Saber's office manager. Dr Saber patiently listened to my concerns and, after examining me, explained what I could realistically expect the outcome to be from another surgery. She also explained to me that she would need to review my previous surgery notes before we could discuss a possible further surgery, which I found comforting and highly ethical. I also discussed a couple of other procedures that I would like done, including fat removal from my large upper arms that had caused me great embarrassment for several years. Dr. Saber is an excellent surgeon who is incredibly kind and genuine. She truly understands the female body and the emotional aspect of body insecurities yet, she is transparent about what can and cannot be done and takes time to discuss realistic expectations and outcomes. My breast reconstruction revision surgery will take place in the New Year, but in the meantime, I have the most fabulous upper arms that I recently flaunted in a strapless dress (something I have not done in years). Dr Saber is truly one of a kind, and I still cannot believe how fortunate I am to have found her. I highly recommend Dr Saber.

    Linda DeCarlo November 29, 2023

    I don’t have enough wonderful words to describe Dr Saber and Marlene! I had a tummy tuck done this year and from start to finish the entire experience was amazing. Marlene is always so helpful and works so hard to make every detail a breeze for you. When I had my consultation with Dr Saber I was at a point of complete agony with my body. She instantly took that stress and frustration off my shoulders! As a woman not being heard by doctors for years I left that consultation with happy tears knowing I had finally found my Dr. It was a major surgery and I felt completely zen and at peace going in because she really does make you feel that safe. I didn’t think I would ever look the way I do now! She gave me the gift of having the body I kept fighting for. I will never stop recommending her.

    Monica Prusa October 9, 2023

    I saw Dr. Saber when I broke my wrist. I ended up having to have surgery. She did an excellent job and I am healing nicely. She was very professional, but was also very kind and compassionate. I would highly recommend her!!

    Sandy Schaupp September 13, 2022

    I LOVED DR SABER!!! There are a few reasons why I chose her. One was because she’s a female Doctor that was my goal who also did a good job (which I was able to confirm with all her before and after photos) and what sold me was my safety in mind. She made me feel like I was in the best hands ever along with Marlene who coordinated everything THANK YOU LADIES! Dr Saber helped me get back the body I have always desired. I had a lot of stomach fat from weight gain and I lost weight so a lot of my weight was in my front lower and upper abdomen. Now I have a super beautiful curvy body like an hourglass after a tummy tuck and lipo she did. She understood the assignment hahaha . I’m 32 years old no kids just wanted to enjoy my younger body looking and feeling beautiful and she really took good care of me. Even after hours I had an emergency due to my fault but she was there and got back to me very quickly and I’m very grateful. I also think her work says a lot because I stopped taking pain medication on the 3rd day after surgery and was fine with very minimal pain I was able to tolerate the healing process. Highly recommend going with her I just had a wonderful experience and would do it all over again if I had too. Maybe after I have kids. Thanks Dr Saber and team <3

    STEPHANIE d July 15, 2022

    Dr.Saber is by far one of the best plastic surgeons. I love how she takes her time to explain any procedure to the patients understanding. She always makes sure to answers any and all questions.From fillers to body contours she’s the one you want.

    Katherine Melara February 15, 2022

    Dr Saber is amazing! She is caring and very informative. I went in for fillers and she explained procedure step by step. I highly recommend her and look forward to future visits.

    Amanda Vazquez December 18, 2020

    Dr. Saber was friendly, knowledgeable and professional. She took time to listen, answer all my questions and was forthright in her recommendations. Her staff was friendly and helpful. I was very happy with the results and plan on going back. If you are looking for a first rate professional experience look no further she is the doctor for you!

    T R December 18, 2020

    Dr. Saber is one of a kind plastic surgeon with a heart of gold. She is a well verse plastic surgeon that puts her patient's needs before anything else. She genuinely cares about every single patient, and her work speaks for itself. I notice every post-operative result on her Instagram (@saberplasticsurgery) the patients have this glow that radiates through. I have been going to Dr. Saber for my Botox for the past 3 years, and love the results every time. I know who I will be going to for any future plastic surgery needs, and will confidently refer family and friends to Dr. Saber for any Botox, fillers, and plastic surgery consultations.

    Rudy Garcia December 16, 2020

    I have nothing but great things to say about Dr. Saber! I am so pleased with my results from a breast augmentation she performed on me back in late June! She answered all my questions and concerns before and after my surgery. She’s very easy to get in contact with and she’s so nice. She made feel so comfortable throughout the whole process. 100/10 Lover her work!!

    Amanda Villegas October 15, 2020

    Dr Saber is hands down the best surgeon! She took her time answering my questions and explained procedure in detail. After doing liposuction six months ago, I am extremely happy with my results and I appreciate her so much.

    Marlene Cosentino October 15, 2020

    Dr. Saber is so kind and thorough with her patients! She is an amazing doctor and genuinely cars about everyone she comes in contact with. I would recommend her to anyone for any hand surgery or cosmetic procedure.

    Rachel Meach October 15, 2020