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ABS Announces New Direction for Continuous Certification

July 7, 2017 Media Contact: Christine Shiffer, 215-568-4000 ext. 137

The American Board of Surgery (ABS) announces a new direction for our program of lifelong learning and continuous board certification, currently known as Maintenance of Certification. These changes are based on feedback received from diplomates (ABS-certified surgeons) and surgical organizations, including from a survey sent last fall to 5,000 ABS diplomates.

The changes are intended to offer surgeons greater flexibility and more practice-relevant options for continuing their certification, to support them in their goal of lifelong learning and high-quality patient care.

Changes now in effect:

  • Diplomates will be asked to report every five years, rather than every three years, regarding their professional standing, CME activities, and practice assessment participation. All diplomates will have their current reporting cycle extended by two years.
  • The requirement for self-assessment CME has been reduced by 50%, to 10 credits per year on average. Going forward, diplomates will be required to complete 150 Category 1 CME credits over a five-year cycle, of which 50 credits must include self-assessment (i.e., a quiz or test). Lowering the self-assessment requirement will allow diplomates more choice in selecting CME programs that best reflect their area of practice.

In addition, the following changes will be implemented as of 2018:

  • Diplomates will be offered alternatives to the secure recertification examination in general surgery currently required at 10-year intervals, with other specialties to be phased in when possible.
  • A 10-year secure examination will continue to be available for those diplomates who choose to use it.
  • The new assessment program will be designed with a focus on ongoing, high-value, practice-relevant learning. Diplomates will be solicited in the coming months to provide input on the creation of the new program.

See also our requirements page for more details, as well as the frequently asked questions below. Each diplomate's personal login area will also be updated on the ABS website by August 1 to reflect the above changes.

Beyond these efforts, the ABS will continue to explore additional options to make meeting the requirements for continuous board certification more convenient and beneficial to surgeons. The ABS is dedicated to the creation of a flexible process that supports our diplomates and values their time and resources, while upholding our commitment to the public to maintain high standards for board certification.

We look forward to working with our diplomates to shape this new program. Further updates will be made available in the weeks ahead.


Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What will the exam alternatives look like?
    Our goal is a high-quality, ongoing assessment that is relevant to a surgeon's daily practice. We are looking at programs being developed by other ABMS member boards and surgical societies, and will be soliciting feedback from diplomates as the new program moves forward.
  2. I was planning to recertify in general surgery this year. What should I do?
    If your certificate is expiring this year, you will need to take and pass the 2017 exam to remain certified. If your certificate is expiring in 2018 or 2019, you can take the 2017 exam or wait until 2018 for the alternative assessment program. Certificate expiration dates, however, will not be extended.
    Update: Diplomates who have already registered for the 2017 exam, but wish to wait until 2018 for the alternative assessment, will be given a full refund as long as they notify the ABS office in writing by November 14.
  3. How does the ABS plan to gather diplomate feedback?
    We intend to use surveys and focus groups to identify and refine potential options, in addition to having representatives at as many surgical meetings as possible in the coming months. All diplomates will have an opportunity to provide feedback. We want to hear from surgeons as to what would be most valuable to them for ongoing learning and assessment throughout their career.
  4. I am board certified in multiple surgical specialties. What about me?
    The new assessment program will be shaped with the concerns of multiple certificate holders in mind, and they will be asked specifically to provide feedback.
  5. How is the ABS transitioning everyone to five-year reporting cycles?
    All diplomates will have their current reporting cycle extended by two years. This change will be reflected in your login area by August 1. We will also send you regular updates via email regarding your status. Please note that only reporting cycles are being extended by two years; certificate expiration dates will not be extended.
  6. What will the five-year reporting require?
    This will continue to be an online process, with submission of information through the ABS website. We will ask for information about your medical license, privileges, professional references, and participation in a practice assessment program. You will also need to enter or transfer information about your CME and self-assessment activities. No paper documentation will be required unless you are audited.
  • See also our update of November 8, 2017 on the new assessment program.

About the ABS
  • The American Board of Surgery is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1937 for the purpose of certifying individuals who have met a defined standard of education, training and knowledge in the field of surgery. Surgeons certified by the ABS have completed at least five years of surgical training following medical school and successfully completed a written and oral examination process administered by the ABS. They must then maintain their board certification through ongoing learning and practice improvement activities.
  • The ABS offers board certification in general surgery, vascular surgery, pediatric surgery, surgical critical care, complex general surgical oncology, surgery of the hand, and hospice and palliative medicine. It is one of the 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties.
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