FAQs - Information for the Public

State medical licensure is required by law for an individual to practice medicine in the United States. The standards are established through a public process and all actions taken—both in granting a license and in restricting or withdrawing a license—are matters of public record. Licensure is not specialty-specific and permits an individual to provide to the public any medical or surgical service they desire.

Medical licensure is mandated by state law, and was created to restrict medical practice to individuals who satisfied standard requirements for medical school education and some period of residency training (usually one year). It was not designed to define the requirements for individual medical specialties. Medical licensing boards in each state have investigative and subpoena powers, budgets and personnel designed to investigate complaints related to a physician's practice, and power to prosecute violations and enforce license sanctions, including revocation, in court.

The American Board of Surgery is an independent, nonprofit organization founded for the purpose of certifying individuals who have met a defined standard of education, training and knowledge specifically in the field of surgery. Surgeons certified by the ABS have completed a minimum of five years of surgical training following medical school, received the attestation of their training program director regarding their surgical skills and ethical qualities, performed a minimum number of operative procedures, and successfully completed a written and oral examination process. Board certification by the ABS is voluntary. The ABS does not have any legal powers related to investigation or prosecution regarding a physician's practice.
We do not. We believe credentialing decisions are best made by locally constituted bodies and should be based on an individual's extent of training, depth of experience, patient outcomes relative to peers, and certification status.
We do not provide specific physician referrals. However if you provide us with the names of the surgeons you are considering, we will be happy to check to see if they are certified by the ABS.
Please see our Additional Resources page—it has links to resources for information about surgical procedures, questions to ask your surgeon and what to expect in having surgery.
No. We only provide information regarding an individual's certification status. You can ask the surgeon directly about his or her schooling, operative experience, etc.
To find out if your surgeon is board certified by the ABS, see Check a Certification for online verification or contact the ABS office.
It means that the surgeon's application for certification or recertification has been approved by the ABS and that the surgeon is currently in the process of taking the required examinations.
Send your information in writing to the ABS addressed to Jo Buyske, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer. Please include copies or examples in which the surgeon misrepresented him- or herself, such as ads, letterhead, website printouts, etc. Generally no action can be taken based on verbal misrepresentations, only on those where printed misrepresentations are present.
By contacting the medical society of the county where the doctor practices and/or the medical board of the state in which the physician is licensed (Directory of State Medical Boards). The ABS does not have any legal powers related to investigation or prosecution regarding a physician's practice.
About 33,500 surgeons hold current ABS board certification. See this page of our website for a breakdown by specialty.
No. As of 1997, maintaining certification in general surgery is not required for maintaining certification in other ABS specialties.
Certificates in general surgery issued by the ABS on or after January 1, 1976, have been valid for 10 years. Certificates issued by the ABS in other specialties have always been valid for 10 years. In 2014, the ABS shifted its certificates from the academic year to the calendar year. As such, the duration of all current ABS certificates has been extended six months to December 31. In March 2018, the ABS announced its new Continuous Certification Program, in which 10-year certificates will be gradually phased out.
Continuous Certification, previously known as Maintenance of Certification (MOC), is a continuous professional development program that has replaced traditional recertification with ongoing learning and assessment activities. Diplomates are automatically enrolled in Continuous Certification upon certification or recertification in any ABS specialty after July 1, 2005. Once enrolled in Continuous Certification, diplomates must adhere to the ABS Continuous Certification Requirements to maintain all ABS certificates they hold.