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ABS Announces Details of New Continuous Certification Program

Mar. 5, 2018 - Updated Mar. 15 Media Contact: Christine Shiffer, 215-568-4000

Based on surgeon feedback, new program is designed to provide greater value, flexibility and convenience

  • The American Board of Surgery (ABS), the national certifying board for general surgeons and related specialists, is pleased to announce the details of its new Continuous Certification Program. Shaped by surgeon feedback, this new program is designed to provide greater value, flexibility and convenience in maintaining ABS board certification.
  • The Continuous Certification Program documents a surgeon's ongoing commitment to professionalism, lifelong learning, and practice improvement following initial board certification. As part of this new program, the ABS is transitioning to a new assessment process that will gradually replace the traditional secure recertification exam. Rather than one recertification exam every 10 years, ABS-certified surgeons, known as diplomates, will use the new assessment process to demonstrate their surgical knowledge on a continual basis. The new assessment is being introduced in 2018 for general surgery, with other ABS specialties launching over the next few years.
New General Surgery Assessment

The new assessment will focus on the latest and most important developments in practice, to assist diplomates in staying up to date and integrating new knowledge.

  • The general surgery assessment will consist of a 40-question, open-book assessment to be taken and passed every other year.
  • Out of the 40 questions, 20 will cover core surgical principles, and the other 20 will cover a practice-related area of the diplomate's choosing.
  • For 2018, diplomates will be able to select from four practice-related areas: general surgery, abdomen, alimentary tract, or breast. More areas are planned for the future based on feedback from diplomates and surgical societies.
  • Topics and references for the various areas will be published in advance on the ABS website.
  • Diplomates will take the assessment through their own computer at a time and place of their choosing within the assessment window.
  • While taking the assessment, diplomates will be provided with immediate feedback, and will have two opportunities to answer a question correctly. A final score of 80% correct will be required to pass.
  • Once the assessment is started, diplomates will have two weeks to complete it, with the ability to save and continue when convenient.
2018 Dates
  • Registration for the new general surgery assessment will open Aug. 1. The assessment will be available this fall from Sept. 7 to Nov. 5. Diplomates may choose any time during this window to take the assessment at their convenience.
Enrollment Timeline (Updated Mar. 15)
  • Diplomates with general surgery certificates expiring this year may use the new assessment to continue their certification. Diplomates will not need to begin taking the general surgery assessment until their certificate is due to expire.
  • The ABS has also established a new pathway specifically for surgeons with lapsed general surgery certificates. This pathway will be available for three years — in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Certification Status
  • Once participating in the new general surgery assessment process, a diplomate's certification status will be contingent on passing the assessment every other year, as well as meeting other program requirements. This will include an annual fee of $285, which will cover one assessment every other year and general program participation.
  • This new paradigm is intended to more accurately reflect the rapid changes in surgical knowledge and practice and better promote high-quality patient care. A grace year will always be provided for those who need to retake the assessment or otherwise catch up on requirements.
  • It was important to all the ABS directors and staff that this new program reflect the way our diplomates practice today, and to support them by providing a high-value assessment process

    - Dr. Mary Klingensmith, ABS Chair

  • "It was important to all the ABS directors and staff that this new program reflect the way our diplomates practice today, and to support them by providing a high-value assessment process that focuses on essential developments in surgical practice, said Dr. Mary E. Klingensmith, ABS chair. "We welcome diplomates' input as this new program continues to evolve."
  • For further information, please see the Continuous Certification area of the ABS website. Additional details will be made available in the months ahead. Diplomates are encouraged to keep their contact information up to date to receive the latest updates.

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 an extensive 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.