VSB header Twitter  
  News from your Vascular Surgery Board  

Message from the Chair


Gilbert R. Upchurch, M.D.

While there may be many ways to describe surgeons, one thing is irrefutable: surgeons are leaders! We are the leaders, and rainmakers, in our hospitals, and leaders in the delivery of health care in general. Vascular surgeons in particular are not only leaders, but innovators as well. In no context has our leadership been more necessary, and clear, than in this time of the unique and most challenging stresses and obstacles imposed by the COVID pandemic.

Hospitals and surgical departments have sustained significant financial shortfalls that led to some taking pay cuts and furloughs. Pre-operative COVID testing became the norm for all patients, further complicating our ability to deliver surgical care in a timely fashion. Our surgical societies have either canceled meetings or moved to an online format. Perhaps most importantly, elective caseloads declined impacting the care of our patients and the training of our residents and fellows.

Despite this time of challenge and uncertainty, the work of the VSB has been ongoing as we invested in innovative service to our stakeholders in order to fulfill our mission to protect the public and our patients through the administration of the board certification process. For example, the VSB reduced the number of cases required to register for the Qualifying Examination. The ABS staff has on numerous occasions directly contacted future employers, and state licensing Boards on behalf of recent vascular surgery residency and fellowship graduates whose Board certification was delayed due to the pandemic.

The VSB has continued to carry out its charge through virtual online, rather than face-to-face, meetings. Retreats in collaboration with other surgical specialty boards have focused on developing best practices in the delivery of written (qualifying) and oral (certifying) examinations virtually, addressing social injustice, and other important issues. While the shutdown of testing centers and hotels was beyond our control, in the best interests of protecting the safety of our candidates in this pandemic we had to delay exams. We recognize the significant emotional burden this has placed on our trainees with respect to when they would be able to achieve Board certification, and we have aggressively responded to this challenge.

Ultimately, through collaboration with other specialty boards of the ABS, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), and the ABS staff, the VSB is rolling out the vascular surgery board certification process. The Certifying Exam (CE) which was cancelled in May 2020 will proceed in January 2021. This will be a proctored virtual exam, taken at home by the candidates. The development of this virtual process reflected literally hundreds of hours of work by the ABS staff to ensure a fair, secure, safe, and professional testing environment. More than 600 candidates recently completed the general surgery CE virtually, and their response was overwhelmingly positive. This virtual platform avoids the cost and stress of traveling to Philadelphia for the CE, it avoids the necessity of securing a hotel reservation and its cost, and it allows the candidate to take the exam in the comfort of one's own environment. In addition, the postponed September 2020 Vascular Surgery Qualifying Examination will be administered in April 2021, with a CE to follow in the summer.

Thus, while the uncertainty of COVID and the impact it will have on each of us remains a constant, it is important to know that the VSB is learning, working and leading in this "new era" of testing. We remain committed to our mission: "The Vascular Surgery Board serves the public and the specialty of vascular surgery by providing leadership in surgical education and practice, by promoting excellence through rigorous evaluation and examination, and by promoting the highest standards for professionalism, lifelong learning, and the continuous certification of vascular surgeons in practice.

Gilbert R. Upchurch, Jr.
VSB Chair 2019-2021

VSB Director Spotlight


Vincent L. Rowe, M.D.

Vincent L. Rowe, M.D.
Chair, VSITE Committee

Dr. Vincent Rowe was elected to the VSB from the Western Vascular Society in 2017, when the VSB added five new positions to ensure that a broader voice of practicing vascular surgeons was included in VSB deliberations. He currently serves as chair of the VSB's VSITE Committee, which is in charge of the development and maintenance of the Vascular Surgery In-Training Exam.

Following undergraduate education at the University of California, Berkeley and medical school at the University of Southern California, Dr. Rowe completed residency at Kaiser Medical Center in Los Angeles followed by a clinical fellowship in vascular surgery at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Dr. Rowe is a professor of surgery and the program director for vascular surgery at Keck Medical Center of USC in Los Angeles. He also serves as the Director of Vascular Surgery at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. His current practice scope encompasses the entire spectrum of vascular surgery, and his clinical interests lay with peripheral arterial disease and limb salvage, in addition to vascular trauma.

"The VSB has done an excellent job of creating a vibrant diverse board of active practicing vascular surgeons who will help keep the educational and certification process of the surgeons of our specialty at a very high level of competency," said Dr. Rowe. "It's exciting and humbling for me to be a part of this team."

In addition to his role on the VSB, Dr. Rowe is chair of the Society for Vascular Surgery's (SVS) DEI Committee, president-elect of the Western Vascular Society (WVS), and an associate editor for Rutherford 10e. In his spare time, Dr. Rowe is an avid cyclist and enjoys riding through the hills and coastlines of Southern California.

Examination Update

Qualifying Exam

The VSB announced in July that the September 2020 Vascular Surgery Qualifying Examination (QE) would be delivered in the same way as the planned General Surgery QE. However, after the cancellation of the general surgery exam in July, it was clear that this was no longer a viable option. The 2020 Vascular Surgery QE has since been rescheduled for April 12, 2021.

For those candidates who choose not to complete an exam in the 2020-21 academic year, their exam eligibility period will be extended by one year, and will begin July 1, 2021.

Certifying Exam

Due to COVID, the VSB was forced to cancel the May 2020 Vascular Surgery Certifying Examination (CE). This exam has since been rescheduled for January 12-13, 2021.

Following two successful virtual exam pilots for general surgery in the spring, a survey was sent to all CE-eligible vascular surgery candidates asking their preference for completing the rescheduled exam either in-person or remotely. 41% of respondents said that they would prefer remote administration of the exam, while 30% had no preference.

Utilizing video conferencing software and staff proctors, the VSB announced that the oral exams for the 2020-21 academic year would be administered in a virtual format. The first three large-scale administrations of remote oral exams for general surgery (~1,000 candidates overall) were a success, and the VSB along with the ABS will continue to hone this new process for future exams.

Continuous Certification

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the VSB made modifications to the reporting requirements for vascular surgery diplomates who were due for a Continuous Certification Assessment. These modifications included:

  • Extended deadline to report on ongoing program requirements
  • Extended assessment window
  • Option to complete the assessment prior to updating ongoing program requirements
  • Fee deferral in case of financial hardship

Any diplomate who completed their Continuous Certification Assessment but did not complete all of their ongoing certification requirements have until January 15, 2021 to update those requirements. In addition, any diplomate who registered for the assessment this year but chose to utilize the grace year option and defer the assessment until 2021 also have until January 15 to update their ongoing certification requirements. Failure to complete any outstanding certification requirements prior to January 15, 2021 may result in a change to your certification status.

Log in to your diplomate portal to check your ongoing requirements and submit information if needed.

Meet the Education and Research Committee

VSB Organization Chart

The VSB Education and Research Committee's main priority is to review and make recommendations regarding vascular surgery training issues. This committee is chaired by Dr. Mal Sheahan, and members include Dr. Vincent Rowe, Dr. Andres Schanzer, Dr. Rabih Chaer and Dr. Ron Dalman.

This committee provides a line of communication for VSCORE and monitors the impact/effectiveness of the portal's educational materials on vascular training. The group is also responsible for developing an academic strategic plan for the VSB and coordinating implementation with the VSB Executive Committee.

In the area of research, the Education and Research Committee identifies relevant research topics, and when available, evaluates proposals from vascular surgery diplomates or other members of the VSB. The goal of this committee is to author at least two papers per year. It also reviews manuscripts prior to journal submission.

If you are interested in proposing a research topic for the VSB to focus on, let us know!

VSB Diversity Initiatives

The VSB, along with the ABS, has made a commitment to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion as they relate to medicine and, more specifically, surgery.

During the Retreat on Institutional Racism in surgery at the September 2020 ABS Specialty Boards Meeting, ABS volunteers and other members of the surgical community came together to discuss the issue of racism in the world of surgery. Retreat attendees heard sobering tales from their peers about what it is like to be a minority surgeon in a predominantly white field of medicine.

The retreat shocked and educated those attendees who were unfamiliar with the plights of minority physicians, and prompted an immediate desire to address the situation so that it can be eliminated. As a step toward achieving this aim, the VSB and the ABS, in conjunction with the Surgical Council on Resident Education (SCORE), are looking for diplomate volunteers who are willing to share their own personal stories about their experience(s) as a minority surgeon. This is one part of a multi-dimensional effort the VSB and ABS are undertaking to identify and eliminate the systemic racism which affects our practicing surgeons and surgeons in training.

If you are interested in being a part of this initiative, please complete this form.

  Vascular Surgery Board of The American Board of Surgery  
  1617 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Ste. 860  
  Philadelphia, PA 19103 USA | 215.568.4000