Whether you are referred
to a physician for surgical care, or you make the choice yourself,
don't take your surgeon's qualifications for granted. Make sure
your operation is performed by a competent physician whose specialty
is surgery. It could be the most important decision you make.
you or someone you know is considering elective surgery, you should
be aware that there are some ways to objectively evaluate your surgeon.
The American College of Surgeons--the largest international organization
of surgeons in the world--recommends that you look for the following
Board Certification. A good indication of a surgeon's competence
is certification by a surgical board that is approved by the American
Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). In order for a physician to
become board certified in a surgical specialty, he or she must complete
the designated years of residency training in that specialty, and
then demonstrate his or her knowledge by successfully completing
a rigorous examination. When you choose a surgeon who is certified
by an ABMS-approved board, you select a physician whose specialty
is in surgery.
Practice in an accredited hospital or outpatient surgery center. Your surgeon will arrange for your operation to be performed in
a hospital where he or she has staff privileges. It is a good idea
to make sure that the hospital has been accredited by the Joint
Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, a professionally
sponsored program that stimulates a high quality of patient care
in health care facilities. There is also an accreditation option
that is available for ambulatory surgery centers.
your operation is scheduled to be performed in one of these facilities,
you can check to see if the center has been accredited by a nationally
recognized organization such as the Joint Commission or the Accreditation
Association for Ambulatory Health Care. When a hospital or ambulatory
surgery center has voluntarily sought accreditation, it is a good
indication that the facility is committed to providing the best
possible care for its patients.
Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons. The letters
FACS after a surgeon's name indicate that he or she is a Fellow
of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Fellows of the College
are almost always board-certified surgeons whose education, training,
professional qualifications, surgical competence, and ethical conduct
have been reviewed and evaluated and have been found to be consistent
with the high standards of the American College of Surgeons.
all surgeons are accepted into Fellowship in the College. And there
are some surgeons who may, for other reasons, choose not to become
Fellows. However, the letters FACS after a surgeon's name indicate
that he has volunteered to have his credentials and performance
evaluated by his peers; they serve as an additional indication that
a physician is competent to perform surgery, and that he has pledged
to place the interest of his patients above his own.
Now that you know what qualifications to look for in selecting a
surgeon, how do you check on those qualifications? In most cases,
a surgeon who is board certified and/or a Fellow of the American
College of Surgeons will have certificates verifying these credentials
on display in his or her office. If not, another way is to simply
ask the surgeon for his or her credentials yourself.
Or you can phone your state or county medical association for assistance.
is also a reference book--The Official ABMS Directory of Board
Certified Medical Specialists--that lists all surgeons who are
certified by approved boards. This publication also contains brief
information about each surgeon's medical education and training,
and it can be found in many libraries or through state and county
medical associations. The ABMS Directory is also available
on the Internet. If none of these resources are available to you,
you can request a list of Fellows of the American College of Surgeons
in your area by calling 312-202-5391; or you may refer to the Fellowship
Database on the American College of Surgeons' Web site. The Directory of Surgeons on this website provides a listing of local practicing ACS surgeons.
Surgery by Surgeons
A fully trained surgeon is a physician who, after medical school,
has gone through years of training in an accredited residency program
to learn the specialized skills of a surgeon. One good sign of a
surgeon's competence is certification by a national surgical board
approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties. All board-certified
surgeons have satisfactorily completed an approved residency training
program and have passed a rigorous specialty examination.
letters F.A.C.S. (Fellow of the American College of Surgeons) after
a surgeon's name are a further indication of a physician's qualifications.
Surgeons who become Fellows of the College have passed a comprehensive
evaluation of their surgical training and skills; they also have
demonstrated their commitment to high standards of ethical conduct.
This evaluation is conducted according to national standards that
were established to ensure that patients receive the best possible
if you're considering an operation, make sure that the procedure
is performed by a competent physician whose specialty is in surgery.
It could be the most important decision you make.