Credentials of Varicose Vein Doctors – Inflated for Advertising?

Credentials of Varicose Vein Doctors – Inflated for Advertising?

Don’t You Want to Know the Credentials of your Varicose Vein Doctor?

I was surfing the internet the other night and came upon an advertisement from a franchise vein center located in our city. This franchised vein center in town recently asked in one of their ads … Are you safe?  They implied do you feel safe coming to them for vein treatments.

Great question.

Exactly what should be the credentials of a varicose vein doctor?

I looked at this local franchise doctors’ expertise in treating veins. Let’s inspect these doctors’ real medical training.

Their training and backgrounds are in family medicine and emergency room medicine. Sure that means they are board certified … but not in venous disease.

Do you want a family doctor or an emergency room doctor working on your veins?

Doesn’t that matter more to you than how close that their office is located to your house?

The Problem with the American College of Phlebology

One of their doctors claimed to be board certified with the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Disease. The American Board of Phlebology which originally gave this “board certification” has asked its members to refrain from using the terminology, “Board Certified” in Venous and Lymphatic Medicine, in their member’s advertisements.

The reason is that the American College of Phlebology is not a true board. It’s a pseudo-medical professional organization, which gave pseudo-board certifications. It has a pseudo-legitimate name, which it recently changed. Originally, they called themselves the North American Society of Phlebology. It publishes pseudo-research and pseudo-articles in its pseudo-journal.

It is a rogue board like the American Board of Chelation Therapy. They are both not real boards of medicine. Board certification means recognition by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).  Chelation therapy is not so recognized. Neither is the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine which just changed its name again. For many years, it was better known as the American College of Phlebology. These name changes can be confusing.

Doctors who are board certified in vascular surgery and the reputable venous societies initially put up with the shenanigans of the ACP (American College of Phlebology) allowing its members who passed their test to call themselves board certified in phlebology (veins). Thankfully, that has changed.

Through considerable effort by traditional accepted medical venous societies, the American College of Phlebology acquiesced and redefined what it means to receive their approval. Their ability to say that their member doctors were board certified in venous disease was discredited.

Now the ACP tells their members to say in advertisements that they can call themselves “diplomats’ of the American Board of Phlebology. Alternatively, they can advertise as being members of the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine. However, their member doctors cannot advertise as being board certified in treating veins. That’s simply bogus.

Lately, more and more physicians have gravitated into the field of treating varicose and spider veins. They mislead the public about their true background and present certificates that imply expertise in a field when they don’t actually don’t have any training in venous disease at all. This is especially true with vein franchises.

This misrepresentation is disingenuous, ambiguous and purposely misleading. This is malfeasance of the low hanging fruit variety. State medical boards do not come after doctors for these advertising distortions of their true board certification.

In my opinion, it is also unethical. The sad fact is that there was no regulatory agency for vein centers until the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission came along.  You can read more about the importance of this vein center accreditation here.

Quackery is a big business. 

Physician quacks elude scrutiny by state and national medical societies.

It seems that state medical boards will act on doctors selling or using narcotic prescriptions, or having sex with patients, or practicing medicine without a license, or who commit a felony. These are the main reasons that their state’s board disciplines doctors. However, when it comes to claiming to be a specialist despite having no training, unfortunately there is not much enforcement. There is little that they can do in the form of disciplinary action in these disputes.

The perfect example is chelation therapy. Chelation therapy is the modern equivalent to the snake oil salesmen in the Old West. Chelation therapy is dangerous, unsupported by peer reviewed medicine or Cochrane reviews or methods of best medical practice.

It is pure quackery. Its sole purpose is to make money for its disreputable member physicians.

In my opinion, many varicose vein doctors who claim to be vein specialists are in that category.

Another example is cosmetic surgery. Most patients and many primary care doctors don’t know the difference between a truly board certified plastic surgeon who has undergone at least five years of rigorous training and a doctor who says that they are board certified in cosmetic surgery. Board certified cosmetic surgeons don’t have to have spent even one day in training to learn their craft! It’s unbelievable but 100% true.

Would you want someone to do a face-lift on you without absolutely any surgical training at all?


On-the-job training does not cut it. That’s why the American Board of Medical Specialties was created.

The problem is that most people choose a varicose vein doctor by their location or from advertising. Qualifications are not usually considered.

This is especially true when it comes to treating varicose veins.

Just because someone is an MD or a DO, that doesn’t qualify a doctor to claim to be a specialist in “the skin and its contents”

Vein franchises are popping up everywhere. Make sure that the doctors practicing at a vein center that you choose are not trying to deceive you by advertising as being “board certified”. Almost always, they are board certified in other fields besides venous disease.

Doctors come to me for treatment of their own varicose veins. Nurses come to me who work at other vein centers in town. Hospital radiology technicians come to me. People “in the know” and who are in the medical field come to me because of my training, qualifications and experience.

We are the only accredited vein center in the city. I trained in vascular surgery at the Mayo Clinic. I have all of the credentials to perform and interpret venous ultrasound. Ultrasound is very important in both diagnosing and treating venous disease.

Do your research before setting foot in just any vein center or vein franchise. Don’t choose a varicose vein doctor because they advertise or just because their office is close to you.

Be on a “Quack watch”.

Call us at 724-969-0600 or contact us here.

About The Author

Dr. John Happel

Dr. John Happel has been in practice as a surgeon since 1986 in the Pittsburgh region. He specializes in vascular surgery and has subspecialized in the treatment of varicose and spider veins since 1999. Dr. Happel is board certified in vascular surgery and recertified in vascular surgery in 2012. He was chosen in 1985 to fulfill the position for the vascular surgical fellowship at the world renowned Mayo Clinic.