Breaking Down the ‘Core Four’: What Board Certification Means at AEDIT

A closer look at how we vet the elite physicians and surgeons that make up the AEDIT Provider Network.
Expert Opinion
Written by William A. Kennedy III, MD
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Breaking Down the ‘Core Four’: What Board Certification Means at AEDIT FlamingoImages/iStock

If you’re interested in a cosmetic procedure – be it Botox, a breast augmentation, or anything in between – you know there is plenty of research to be done. Finding and choosing the right provider is perhaps the most important decision you will make. But with social media feeds flooded with alluring before and after photos and new aesthetic practices seemingly popping up every day, it can be difficult to cut through the noise and find a highly qualified option.

Here at AEDIT, we believe there is nothing more important than patient safety and satisfaction, which is why we take provider vetting so seriously. Our AEDIT Provider Network exclusively features physicians who are board certified in four key specialities – plastic and reconstructive surgery, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, dermatology, and oculoplastic surgery.

We refer to this quartet as the 'core four' of aesthetic medicine, and below is a closer look at what board certification means, why it matters, and how AEDIT can help you find the best provider for your needs.

Why Board Certification Matters

Titles like ‘cosmetic surgeon,’ ‘plastic surgeon,’ and ‘cosmetic dermatologist’ have seemingly become interchangeable as of late, but the qualifications of such doctors can vary greatly.

Because there is very little regulation governing how physicians refer to themselves, understanding your provider's board certification(s) can ensure you are consulting with a doctor or surgeon who is formally trained in plastic and reconstructive surgery, otolaryngology, ophthalmology, or dermatology (i.e. the specialties that most relate to aesthetic medicine).

Unlike a medical license, board certification is not necessary to practice medicine in the United States, but it is an important tool in distinguishing whether or not a provider has specialized – and continues to specialize – in a particular area. Many medical specialty boards require recertification every decade or so, ensuring doctors keep on top of their skills.

How Doctors Become Board Certified

A licensed doctor is not the same as a board certified one. A medical license is required for all doctors who wish to legally practice medicine in the U.S. Medical licensure is handled at the state level, and physicians must receive individual licenses in each state they wish to practice in. Board certification, meanwhile, signifies that the doctor has successfully completed a residency in their chosen specialty.

In order to become board certified, a physician must have completed his or her undergraduate education, medical school, one-year internship, residency in their chosen specialty, and passed the residency board exam.

The ‘Core Four’ Board Certifications at AEDIT

The AEDIT Provider Network is comprised of medical doctors (MDs) and doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) who are board certified by specific member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and American Osteopathic Association (AOA) or a very select group of unaffiliated boards for specialties like facial plastic and reconstructive surgery and oculoplastic surgery.

Here is closer look of the specialties that make up the AEDIT Provider Network:

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

General plastic and reconstructive surgeons complete three to five years of general surgery training followed by a two to three year cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery residency. Plastic and reconstructive surgeons listed with AEDIT can pursue board certification via the American Board of Plastic Surgery or American Osteopathic Board of Surgery - Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. In the case of the former, they may be dual-certified by the American Board of Surgery. While these physicians are board certified to perform cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries from head to toe, their work may focus on the breasts and body.

Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

After completing a five-year residency in otolaryngology (a.k.a. ears, nose, and throat), facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons pursue year-long fellowships in cosmetic and reconstructive procedures specifically related to the face and neck (think: rhinoplasty, facelift, chin and jaw surgeries, etc.).

There is no ABMS Member Board specifically for facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. Instead, facial plastic surgeons in the AEDIT Provider Network are board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery or the Otolaryngology/Facial Plastic Surgery certification within the American Osteopathic Board of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. The American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is also an accreditation that many facial plastic surgeons seek.


Medical dermatologists diagnose, treat, and prevent conditions affecting the skin, hair, and nails. All dermatologists affiliated with AEDIT are board certified by the American Board of Dermatology or American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology, which means hey have undergone non-surgical, cosmetic dermatology training during their residency program. Dermatologic surgeons refer to physicians who are qualified to perform surgical procedures like liposuction, fat transfer, and Mohs surgery, in addition to non-invasive treatments. They are often fellows of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

Oculoplastic Surgery

While a facial plastic surgeon is able to perform eyelid surgeries like blepharoplasty, oculoplastic or oculofacial surgeons are experts in procedures that reconstruct the eyelids, tear ducts, and orbital area. At AEDIT, they are board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology or have an Ophthalmology certification within the American Osteopathic Board of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Many also have additional fellowship training with the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Fellowships & Societies

Doctors who wish to further specialize in a particular area of medicine may choose to continue their training and education via a fellowship. Fellowship programs are often highly competitive and last one to three years each. Due to the lack of ABMS Member Boards in certain subspecialties, fellowships may be used to denote expertise. An ophthalmologist who wishes to subspecialize in oculoplastic surgery, for instance, would complete a two-year fellowship through the aforementioned ASOPRS.

Society memberships, meanwhile, offer another way that is separate from licensing, board certification, and fellowships for providers to continue their education, in addition to offering mentoring and networking opportunities. Below are some of the academies and societies related to aesthetic medicine, cosmetic surgery, and dermatology:

American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine (AAAM) American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS) American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) American Society of Cosmetic Laser Surgery (ASCLS) American Society for Dental Aesthetics (ASDA) American Society of Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) American Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ASHRS) American Society of Liposuction Surgery (ASLS) American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery (ASOPRS) American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)

While these affiliations are voluntary, a doctor may display their memberships as an indicator of interest and engagement in their specialty.

The Takeaway

There is perhaps no more important task in your aesthetic journey than finding the right physician to perform your procedure and understanding the board certification process is a key part of that. We’ve sought to simplify the research process by presenting you highly qualified, pre-vetted providers who specialize in aesthetic medicine. With the AEDIT Provider Network, you can compare the background and work of skilled physicians in your area before going in for a consultation, so you can ensure you get the best care for your needs.

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WILLIAM A. KENNEDY III, MDis the founder & CEO of AEDIT.

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