What is Board Certification, and Why Is It Important?

After medical school, graduates enter into training programs called residencies.  These structured apprenticeships, which range from three to six years, allow a doctor to learn a specialty.  Legitimate residencies are carefully monitored for quality by various entities, and once a trainee has completed a legitimate residency, he or she qualifies to take a board examination for that specialty (“board-eligible”).  Once a trainee passes the board examination, he or she is “board-certified.”  Unfortunately, there has been a proliferation of bogus boards in the United States, some of which require little effort to “pass,” so the term “board-certified” can be misleading.  Furthermore, being board-certified in a given specialty does not give one the skills or the license to practice another specialty outside the practitioner’s original scope of training.  Legitimate boards are supervised and listed by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).  To learn more about the ABMS, click here.

Board certification by an ABMS-approved board requires a high degree of expertise in any given specialty.  Surgical boards such as urology and plastic surgery, in addition to written examinations, require that procedures performed after training, but during a period of “board-eligibility,” undergo scrutiny by board examiners.  Only those doctors who demonstrate proficiency on written examination, oral examination, and by virtue of their surgical performance are granted “board-certified” status.  Furthermore, a practitioner’s behavior, ethics, relationships with other doctors, allied health professionals, and patients is also evaluated by the examining board.

Board certification does not, however, make someone competent in all procedures.  The board-certified practitioner has met certain standards.  He or she is certified to have the clinical skills necessary to tackle relevant medical and surgical problems that may arise in his or her practice.  The board-certified practitioner has a solid foundation for creative thinking and for future learning which will be assessed during periodic recertification.  Continuing Medical Education and Maintenance of Certification is required.  The American Board of Urology certificate certifies “adult and pediatric urology,” though most board-certified urologists typically don’t do much in the way of complicated pediatric urology.  Most practitioners of pediatric urology are certified by the American Board of Urology and have additional fellowship training in pediatric urology.  The American Board of Urology has created a separate Certificate of Added Qualification and Board Examination in Pediatric Urology for those who have completed appropriate fellowship training in pediatric urology and who have passed an additional examination process.  Urology is the only specialty that focuses on the genitourinary tract, and most hospitals require board certification in urology to perform procedures on the genitourinary tract.  If your child requires surgery on the genitourinary tract, make sure your surgeon is certified by the American Board of Urology.

Dr. Schaeffer completed two distinct residencies and a separate fellowship in Pediatric Urology.  He is certified by the American Board of Urology and the American Board of Plastic Surgery, one of only a handful of similarly trained individuals in the United States.  Of those, he is the only one with additional fellowship training in pediatric urology who has passed the CAQ Board examination in Pediatric Urology.   He has been accepted for membership in the American Urological Association, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Society for Pediatric Urology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the flagship organizations for the specialties of urology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics.  Click on the highlighted names of these organizations to learn more about them.