The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is 1 of 24 specialty boards that are recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Medical Association. Like the other specialty boards, the ABPS certifies surgeons as having met certain published standards of excellence for the specialty of plastic surgery.
Hand surgery is the special field of medicine that includes the investigation, preservation, and restoration by medical, surgical, and rehabilitative means of all structures of the upper extremity directly affecting the form and function of the hand and wrist.
In 1982, the American Boards of Orthopaedic Surgery, Plastic Surgery, and Surgery were asked by the American Association for Hand Surgery and the American Society for Surgery of the Hand to consider special recognition of those Diplomates of these Boards who had demonstrated special qualifications in Surgery of the Hand. An Ad Hoc Committee was formed which included representatives from the three Boards and the two Societies.
In 1984, the Ad Hoc Committee was reorganized as a Joint Committee and empowered by the Boards to explore further the feasibility of the certification process. The Joint Committee recommended that the three Boards apply to the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) for authorization to offer a Certificate of Added Qualifications in Surgery of the Hand. The authorization was granted to each of the three Boards in 1986. In May 1988, The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. withdrew from the Joint Committee. In May 1989, The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. rejoined the Joint Committee in May 1989.
The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. is not an educational institution and the certificates it issues are not to be considered degrees. The Certificate in the Subspecialty of Surgery of the Hand does not confer legal privileges or license to practice medicine or the specialty of hand surgery. Standards of certification are clearly distinct from those of licensure. Possession of a Certificate of Added Qualifications in Surgery of the Hand does not indicate total qualifications for practice privileges nor does it imply exclusion of others not so certified.
There is no requirement nor necessity for a Diplomate of The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. to hold a certificate in the Subspecialty of Surgery of the Hand in order to be considered qualified to include Hand Surgery within the practice of plastic surgery. Under no circumstances should a Diplomate be considered not qualified to practice within an area of a subspecialty solely because of lack of subspecialty certification.
The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. has never been concerned with measures that might gain special privileges or recognition for its Diplomates in the practice of Hand Surgery or of the primary specialty of plastic surgery. It is not the intent nor has it been the function of the certificate or of the Board to define requirements for membership on the staffs of hospitals or to determine who shall or shall not perform Hand Surgery.
The Board intends the Certification in the Subspecialty of Surgery of the Hand for only those surgeons who, by virtue of additional fellowship training, practice characteristics reflecting a major commitment to Hand Surgery, and contributions to this field, have demonstrated qualifications in hand surgery that deserve special recognition.
The requirements which must be met for Certification in the Subspecialty of Surgery of the Hand are:
- Must be a Diplomate of The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc.
- Must have been in the active practice of hand surgery for at least two years following the completion of any formal training.
- Must have a current, valid, registered, full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in a state, territory, or possession of the United States or by a Canadian province, and must continue to be licensed throughout the certification process.
- The Board accepts only those persons whose major professional activity is limited to the field of plastic surgery.
- Must maintain an ethical standing in the profession and moral status in the community acceptable to The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. in conformity with the Code of Ethics of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, Inc. Moral and ethical practices that do not conform with the ASPRS Code of Ethics may result in rejection of an application or in deferral of examination until such matters have been resolved satisfactorily. Any sanctions or restrictions to any state medical license must reported by the candidate at the time of Application.
- Must be actively engaged in the practice of hand surgery as indicated by holding full operating privileges in an accredited hospital.
- Candidates who enter a fellowship in Surgery of the Hand starting July 1, 1999 and thereafter must enter and satisfactorily complete a one-year fellowship which is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
The consecutive twelve (12) month hand surgery fellowship may be taken either before or after plastic surgery residency, so long as BOTH the residency and fellowship requirements have been fulfilled.
- Must submit a list of cases managed during a consecutive twelve-month period within the three years preceding submission of the Application Material. All lists must be typed in chronological order for each institution by category and placed on the Operative Cases by Category Form provided by the Board. Surgery of the Hand includes only those procedures performed on the upper extremity distal to the elbow. The case list must include at least 125 cases fulfilling at least six (6) of the following nine (9) categories:
Category Number of Cases Bone and Joint 20 Nerve 20 Tendon and Muscle 20 Skin and Wound Problems 14 Contracture and Joint Stiffness 10 Tumor 10 Congenital 3 Microsurgery Vascular 3 Nonoperative 6
The numbers indicate the minimum number of cases to qualify a category as one of the required six (6) categories.
If conducting more than one procedure during an operation, only the primary procedure should be counted. Nonoperative cases are those which require significant evaluation, such as pain problems. Nonoperative cases must be documented with consultation reports. No more than six nonoperative cases are accepted.
- Must show evidence of other contributions and dedication to the discipline of hand surgery such as teaching, publication, administration, and research.
- Must submit the prescribed Application Form and all specified supporting documents and pay the established fees.
- Must successfully pass any and all examinations prescribed by the Joint Committee on Surgery of the Hand of the American Boards of Orthopaedic Surgery, Plastic Surgery, and Surgery.
- Must receive a satisfactory evaluation as to surgical qualifications by the current Chief of Staff or Surgery in the primary hospital and by two (2) Hand Surgeons, local or regional, who are familiar with the candidate's current work in hand surgery.
The examination for Certification in the Subspecialty of Surgery of the Hand is developed and administered by the Joint Committee on Surgery of the Hand of the American Boards of Orthopaedic Surgery, Plastic Surgery, and Surgery. The examination was first administered in 1989, and subsequent examinations are administered annually. The Written Examination consists of multiple-choice questions designed to evaluate the candidate's cognitive knowledge of clinical Hand Surgery and the basic science relevant to Hand Surgery.