Should my LASIK surgeon be board certified?

So much is carried in the title of board certified. There’s no doubt that board certification clears up questions of whether your LASIK doctor is competent.

Joel Hunter, MD
Joel Hunter, MD
Refractive Surgeon, Hunter Vision Updated 10/31/18 10:56 AM

You know, it feels like there’s a disproportionate number of blog topic suggestions about board certification. Almost enough that it makes me suspicious that they are being surreptitiously submitted by the folks at the American Board of Ophthalmology. A clever advertising ruse, planting information about board certification in a blog with reach to a wide audience of you, our blog editor, and my mom. That’s not even including the people who click on this blog by accident when looking for board certification of cardboard, surfboards, dry erase boards—the list goes on and on. Nevertheless, today we answer the question of whether your LASIK surgeon should be board certified.

Definitely and probably

Rather than a whole cloth answer of “definitely,” a more accurate answer would be “probably.” For a really high-quality, LASIK-only surgeon, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they would let their board certification lapse because it’s more paperwork than it’s worth. Being board certified in ophthalmology isn’t a one-time, lifelong accomplishment. It requires moderate to large amounts of paperwork and documentation each year, and it varies from year to year what’s required.

Just last year, I had to turn in something like 50 patients’ medical charts, with all their personal information redacted, to show how I manage a particular type of surgical visit. There wasn’t even a required topic. It was just an assignment with lots of paperwork and essay questions on a topic of my choosing. “That seems pointless and frustrating,” you may be thinking if you had the same thought about it as I did. That’s the type of random, lifelong assignments we’re talking about when discussing board certification.

For almost all reputable doctors, the somewhat arbitrary and time-consuming projects are worth it to keep the title of “Board Certified.” It’s because so much information is carried in that one title. It means this is a doctor who was good enough to be board certified, and who has stayed good enough to remain board certified. But it’s easy to see how a LASIK doctor who has a large and thriving practice—and is really amazing at LASIK—could one day say, “Bah, it’s not worth the hassle.”

The final step of medical training

I should point out it’s worth being concerned if your LASIK doctor was never board certified. Getting board certification is pretty universally accepted as the final step of our medical training. Never taking that step would either mean a doctor couldn’t pass the tests, or was relaxed enough about their training that they never thought to do it. And that’s a little too relaxed in the arena of medical expertise.

Lastly, our doctors are board certified (and our fellow is “board eligible” which means he is about to be board certified, but has to wait for the slow-moving, annual board certification process). It seemed like it’d be good to be clear about this so this blog doesn’t seem like a big justification of not being board certified. There’s no doubt that board certification can clear up a lot of questions over whether your LASIK doctor is competent. I hope the American Board of Ophthalmology—whether or not they submitted this topic—reads this to see that I think they are valuable. And maybe decides to let up on the homework assignments a bit.

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