American Board of Surgery - What You Need to Know

Posted February 14, 2020
Learn how the American Board of Surgery certifies surgeons

Plastic surgery, as well as surgery in general, is not an issue that should be taken lightly by patients. A plastic surgery procedure, such as a facelift or a tummy tuck, is intended to alter or enhance some aspect of the appearance of a patient. When patients are searching for a surgeon to handle their desired surgical procedure, they need to seek out a doctor that is experienced and board-certified in performing the procedure of choice. One of the best resources for finding a surgeon with the necessary skills and experience to handle the procedure desired by a patient is to visit the website of the American Board of Surgery (ABS).

American Board of Surgery Examined

According to the website of the ABS, the American Board of Surgery is “an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1937 to provide board certification to individuals who have met a defined standard of education, training and knowledge in the field of surgery.” In addition, the American Board of Surgery is one of the 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties.

The organization website goes on to explain that surgeons that are certified by the ABS are known as diplomates and they “have completed at least 5 years of residence training following medical school, met all ABS training requirements, and successfully completed the ABS examination process.” Even after doctors are board-certified by the ABS, the diplomates must complete a continuing series of education and assessment activities in order to maintain their certification.

When it comes to the type of surgeries that fall under the guidelines of the American Board of Surgery, the list of board-certification in surgery includes general surgery, pediatric surgery, vascular surgery, complex general surgical oncology, surgical critical care, hand surgery and hospice and palliative medicine.

American board of surgery informationAmerican Board of Surgery History

The origin of the American Board of Surgery goes back to 1937 as the organization was launched on January 9th, 1937. The ABS was formed as the result of a committee that was formed a year earlier by the American Surgical Association along with representatives from the American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons and the Western, Southern, Pacific Coast and New England Surgical Associations. The leaders of these various medical associations saw a need to differentiate between well-trained surgeons that focused their medical practice on surgery on a full-time basis from doctors that had medical offices that were “general practice”.

Once the ABS was formed, the organization also shared its mission with the public. According to the American Board of Surgery, the organization “serves the public and the specialty of 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 surgeons in practice.”

American Board of Surgery Purpose

The ABS is a nonprofit organization that was formed for the following purposes:

  • To examine acceptable candidates who are seeking to be certified for the first time, or looking to earn continued certification, by the ABS
  • To award board-certification to the candidates that meet the necessary requirements as well as compete any examinations prescribed by the board in a satisfactory manner
  • To improve, as well as broaden, the available opportunities for the “graduate education and training of surgeons”

American Board of Surgery Certification

The earning of board-certification by the American Board of Surgery is a voluntary process for a doctor. The ABS also states that “its principal objective is to pass judgment on the education, training and knowledge of broadly qualified and responsible surgeons and not to designate who shall or shall not perform surgical operations.”

The designation of board-certification is meant to identify individuals that have met the highest standards of training, education and knowledge in surgery. It should be noted that board-certification by the American Board of Surgery, or any other medical board, is different from obtaining a medical license which is required by law in order for an individual to be able to practice medicine.

Once a surgeon has completed his or her training at an accredited United States residency program, the surgeon is then eligible to apply to the American Board of Surgery to receive board-certification from the organization. The amount of training and operative experience by the applicant is reviewed by the American Board of Surgery. In addition, the training program director must attest to the ethics, surgical skills and professionalism of the applicant. If all of these factors are found to be satisfactory by the board, the applicant is admitted to American Board of Surgery examinations that are a required part of the certification process. Some medical specialties require both a qualifying and a certifying exam while others only require a certifying exam. If both exams are required, the qualifying exam is a multiple choice exam while the certifying exam is an oral examination. If the only requirement is a certifying exam, the exam is a multiple choice examination.

Once the applicant successfully completes the examination process, the surgeon becomes a diplomate of the ABS. In order to maintain ABS certification, diplomates must demonstrate an ongoing commitment to continuing medical education, continued professionalism and also pass a written exam. While the ABS has required individuals to maintain their certification every 10 years, the organization is now transitioning to a broader professional development program known as Maintenance of Certification (MOC).  This maintenance program requires individuals to undergo more frequent assessment and learning requirements during the 10-year certification cycle.



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