Annual Board Meeting Sets Priorities Going Into 2022

August 11, 2021

The ABO annual Board of Directors meeting was held in Denver, Colorado on June 23 in conjunction with Optometry’s Meeting. Dr. David Sterna assumed the role of Board Chair while Dr. Diane Adamczyk moved into the Vice Chair position. Outgoing chair, Dr. Paul Hodge, will remain on the board for an additional year as Immediate Past Chair. The board also welcomed two new Directors, Dr. Geoffrey Goodfellow and Dr. Mohammad Rafieetary, who will each serve at least one three-year term.

A focus of the meeting was to set priorities for the year ahead and evaluate recent program changes, including the move to Scantron for exam delivery, longer exam windows and enhancements to the Continuous Assessment Program (CAP).

Communicating the benefits of board certification both for individual providers as well as profession-wide is a top priority for the board. With more employers requiring board certification, an increasing number of optometrists practicing in medical settings and continuing scope expansion across the US, board certification offers a foundational path for maintaining parity with our medical colleagues, ensuring our profession upholds the highest standards of clinical practice through continuous learning and assessment and supporting providers who choose to practice full-scope optometry.

“ABO will continue to focus efforts on educating students and residents about board certification and the value of lifelong learning,” stated Dr. Sterna. “We will also continue to spread the message among practicing ODs and work in partnership with other optometry organizations to advocate for our profession and deliver the knowledge and skill our Diplomates need to be successful in their practice and provide the highest level of patient care to the public.”

Other future-focused topics addressed during the meeting were scope expansion legislation and potential opportunities to provide support where appropriate, working with specialty societies to expand reach across the profession and collaborate on shared goals and finally, subspecialties within optometry either through residency training or equivalent acquired knowledge.

In the fall of 2020, the ABO board formed a committee to explore the need for, and interest in, specialty credentials. In a follow-up report to the board, it was recommended that we continue to pursue specialty credentials through our current maintenance of certification program, CAP. Although no details have been finalized, initial discussions revolved around similar specialty designations offered by member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The ABO maintenance of certification program was modeled after the ABMS framework and we continue to align our program with that of their member boards.

A survey conducted by ABO in early 2021 showed a high level of interest in specialty credentials among current residents as well as current Diplomates. With new residency titles rolled out in 2021, ABO will continue to share progress and seek input from the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) to build upon mutual goals.  Over the next 12 months the board will further refine how specialty credentials may fit within the MOC program, the benefit to current and future Diplomates and the value to the greater profession.

Moving away from future initiatives, the board spent a considerable amount of time reviewing and evaluating current program structures and recent changes. The move to Scantron is proving to be a benefit to both ABO and our current and prospective Candidates. We were able to expand the test window to two months, twice annually, offer overseas testing for military personnel, provide immediate preliminary scoring for examinees, and offer more convenient access to testing facilities throughout the US.

Also proving to be a valuable tool for Diplomates is our continuous assessment program (CAP). CAP was rolled out in 2019 as the foundation for maintenance of certification and an alternative to a 10-year recertification exam. As we near the end of 2021, the first group of Diplomates to begin the program are nearing the finish line of their first CAP cycle with only one assessment remaining. MOC cycles have transitioned from 3 years to 4 years and Diplomates have been pleased with the change which allows year 4 to be a “free” year if all requirements have been completed on time. If requirements are not completed on time, year 4 can be used as a “catch-up” year with the opportunity to complete missing CAP assessments, CE or other items.

Feedback on the CAP assessments has been overwhelmingly positive, with many Diplomates commenting on the value of the knowledge gained while preparing for each assessment. ABO’s Director of Education and Assessment, Dr. Cathy Hines, works diligently with her committee SMEs to identify relevant and timely reference materials and develop assessment items that reinforce both knowledge and understanding.

Recognizing the value of the CAP assessments, almost half of all US states now accept the assessments toward CE requirements for state licensure. Diplomates may print a certificate of completion upon successfully passing each assessment and passing scores are also sent to OE Tracker at the close of each assessment window. ABO, along with our state ambassadors, continues to work toward the goal of all states accepting CAP assessments for CE credit.

Closing out the meeting, Dr. Paul Hodge, Immediate Past Chair, remarked on the growth of ABO and the progress made since the inception of board certification. “While the introduction of board certification over 10 years ago was considered divisive among some in the profession, a dedicated group of professionals have volunteered throughout the years to serve on the board and shape the program into what it is today. More and more of our colleagues are recognizing the value of board certification and the role it plays in keeping knowledge and skills up to date and lending legitimacy and merit to our profession in the greater health care community. We will continue to carry this mission forward for the benefit of all of optometry and the patients we care for.”

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