MOC Specialty Path Committee Meets at Academy

November 17, 2021

In the fall of 2020, the ABO Board of Directors formed a committee to explore the need for, and interest in, specialty credentials. A survey conducted in 2021 showed high interest among both ABO Diplomates and current residents, encouraging the committee to continue researching and exploring specialty credentials.

The committee met again on November 3, during the AAO Academy in Boston. Discussions at the meeting centered around how the current maintenance of certification (MOC) program could be used to accommodate specialty areas, which specialty areas may be a good fit for a pilot program and what the requirements would be for entry into a specialty MOC path. To help facilitate discussions and stay in alignment with the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and other healthcare organizations, the committee looked at similar specialty credential pathways offered by the American Board of Family Medicine, the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and the National Commission on Certification for Physician Assistants. In addition, the committee reviewed several components of micro-credentialing programs offered by academic institutions, including the State University of New York (SUNY).

While discussions remain ongoing and additional research and planning are needed, the committee did come away from their meeting with several key take-aways.

  • A tentative date for launching a pilot specialty MOC path option(s) will be January 1, 2024. Candidates taking the exam in 2023 or current Diplomates finishing their MOC cycle in 2023 would be able to apply for entry into a specialty MOC path for their cycle that begins on January 1, 2024.
  • The most likely specialty credential to be offered is a Certificate of Added Qualification (CAQ).
  • Earning a CAQ will allow board certified optometrists to achieve recognition for their experience, skills, and knowledge in a focused clinical area. A CAQ reflects optometrists are first grounded in the training and knowledge of primary eye care, which is enhanced but not replaced through specialized clinical practice.
  • CAQs will closely align with new residency titles and areas of emphasis recently implemented by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). Areas under consideration for the initial pilot program are Glaucoma, Retina, Cornea and Contact Lenses and Pediatric (Medical) Optometry. 
  • Requirements for entry into a specialty MOC path are still being developed. It is likely that there will be both a residency path as well as a clinical experience path.
  • New and current Diplomates will choose to opt in (or out) of a specialty MOC path by December 1 of the year prior to beginning a new MOC cycle.
  • Once granted entry into a specialty MOC path, Diplomates will continue to meet general MOC requirements, with additional or crossover components related to the specialty.

Although still quite early in the process, ABO is excited about the development of a specialty credential program and the possibilities it may offer our Diplomates. Earning a credential that highlights experience and knowledge in a focused clinical area provides value when communicating with both patients and colleagues.

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