What certification should I look for in a LASIK surgeon?

What certification should I look for a LASIK surgeon?


An ophthalmologist has access to a variety of societies, academies, certification boards and organizations. There is the American College of Eye Surgery, the American Board of Eye Surgery, the American Board of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the American Board of Medical Specialties, and probably a handful of others to which he can belong. This article will help you understand the overall purpose and function of a variety of these boards and societies, and describe which credentials are essential for performing different types of surgery, including LASIK and lens replacement procedures.

Who is an ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is essentially a medical doctor with special qualification and experience in the “eye medicine” and is ready to perform a variety of techniques including surgical procedures during their practice. Unlike an optician or optometrist, an ophthalmologist is the only professional in the field that is licensed to perform eye surgery (e.g. Laser, cataract and retinal disease surgery) Hence, an Ophthalmologist is a full-fledged medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders. Ophthalmologists are qualified to provide the most comprehensive eye care. They specialize in the treatment and prevention of eye diseases and problems in the visual system. They are qualified to examine the eyes, diagnose eye diseases, prescribe medication and perform eye surgery. 

What does it take to become an ophthalmologist?

After graduation from high school, formal training to become an ophthalmologist involves four years of college, then four years of medical school (MD degree) plus one year of internship and at least three years at a hospital residency program. 

Which certifications are required to perform eye surgery?

According to the American Board of Ophthalmology, those interested in this profession and receiving board certification must complete approximately eight years of undergraduate and medical school. After successful completion of medical school, a one-year internship in an ophthalmology program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education is required. A three- to four-year residency program follows the internship. However, the most important prerequisite to perform an ‘eye surgery” is being member of the American College of Surgeons. Such lasik surgeons / members are referred to as "Fellows". The letters FACS (Fellow, American College of Surgeons) after a surgeon's name means the following about that surgeon: he or she has passed a rigorous evaluation and their training, education, qualifications, competence, and ethics are of the highest standard that have been established by the American College of Surgeons. Therefore, if you are searching for an eye surgeon and want one you know is experienced or extremely qualified, you should look for FACS after his name.

Which groups require continuing education to maintain certification?

Ophthalmology continuing education extends throughout the career of an ophthalmologist and encompasses the development and dissemination of educational programs and materials so that all ophthalmologists can obtain and progressively enhance personal knowledge and skills needed to provide the best possible eye care to members of the public. Several accredited bodies and organizations offer various continuing education programs that help ophthalmologists and eye surgeons maintain and enhance a universal high level of ophthalmology specialist knowledge and skills. Some of such main groups include:

American Board of Ophthalmology: Founded in 1916, the American Board of Ophthalmology is an independent, non-profit organization responsible for certifying ophthalmologists (eye physicians and surgeons) in the United States. The ABO was the first American Board established to certify medical specialists and is one of 24 specialty Boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Medical Association. Among all the key professional bodies, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the largest national membership medical association of ophthalmologists–medical doctors (M.D.s) specializing in eye care and surgery including medical, surgical and optical care.

American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS): Similarly, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery organize conferences and help members through continuing medical education programs to maintain certification, in addition to political advocacy and peer support.

The American Board of Eye Surgery (ABES): AEBS is an organization well known in the certification/accreditation arena. Maintaining certification requires a commitment to 20 hours of Continuing Medical Education annually. Recertification is required every seven years. 

Council for Refractive Surgery Quality Assurance (CRSQA): CRSQA, too, evaluates the outcomes of refractive surgeons and brands those who pass muster with a catchy acronym - pronounced "Sirska." Surgeons are required to supply outcomes data on 125 consecutive patients from a specified time period, or to be ABES-certified in refractive surgery. Once certified, surgeons are re-evaluated quarterly and recertified annually.

However, there have been many experts who see ABES and CRSQA-like credentials as nothing more than marketing tools and those who proudly display the seals of approval as evidence of an elevated level of excellence.

What is the “ultimate credential” for an ophthalmologist/surgeon?

While the field of eye surgery and eye medicine specialization is an ongoing, continuous process and there is no “official” term known as “ultimate credential”, a full fledged, licensed and qualified eye surgeon is one who is American board certified and is a fellow of American College of Surgeons.

Does a great surgeon have to belong to any of these groups to do LASIK surgery?

An ideal surgeon qualified enough to perform refractive / laser eye surgery. Laser should be a corneal specialist (and fellowship-trained cornea specialists, an expert who routinely performs corneal transplants, treats corneal abrasions and infections, performs corneal healing research, teaches other doctors about the cornea, and handles challenging cornea cases. In addition, ideally, he or she should also be a board-certified ophthalmologist.

Related Articles:

Learn more about choosing a good LASIK surgeon on our forums!