American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery

ABOS and ABPS to Allow Surgeons to Take Subspecialty Examinations Earlier

Posted On: July 11, 2024

The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) and the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) announced a new initiative to allow surgeons to take their Subspecialty Certification Examinations earlier in their careers, making the process of obtaining Subspecialty Certification less burdensome. The changes will be effective for the 2025 Examinations, offered on August 5, 2025.

The ABOS and the ABPS jointly offer the Surgery of the Hand Subspecialty Certification. In addition, the ABOS offers the Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Subspecialty Certification.

Currently, surgeons must be either ABOS or ABPS Board Certified before they are eligible to apply for a Subspecialty Examination. With the change, Candidates are eligible to take their Subspecialty Examination after successfully completing an ACGME-accredited fellowship. This allows them to be assessed when their knowledge is at its peak and their practice demands are at their lowest.

Passing the Examination is just one step in the process of obtaining Subspecialty Certification. The requirements for earning Subspecialty Certification will not change, just the order. Candidates must achieve primary Board Certification by the ABOS or ABPS, before they can submit an Application, Case List, and Letters of Recommendation as part of the certification process.

Surgery of the Hand Subspecialty Certification was established in 1989. Subspecialty Certification is available for those surgeons who have successfully completed an ACGME-accredited Hand fellowship, have met the requirements for volume and diversity of surgical cases in Hand Surgery, and have made significant contributions to their field as shown through their letters of recommendation.

Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Subspecialty Certification began in 2007. Surgeons must successfully complete an ACGME accredited Sports Medicine fellowship. Once in practice they must submit a case list that demonstrates sufficient diversity and volume of cases. The certification process also requires contributions to the field of Sports medicine and peer review.

“At the ABOS, we develop programs that are relevant to orthopaedic surgeons. We also work to lessen the burdens that those programs place on orthopaedic surgeons,” says ABOS Executive Director David F. Martin, MD. “This new initiative will make it easier for those hand surgeons and sports medicine surgeons who want to obtain Subspecialty Certification.”

“Earning Subspecialty Certification is important to many hand surgeons, and we believe that this new initiative will help more of them receive that designation,’ says ABPS Executive Director Keith E. Brandt, MD.

The changes have the full support of the relevant societies, including the American Association for Hand Surgery (AAHS), the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), and the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH). These organizations believe that earning Subspecialty Certification is important to the profession and allows these surgeons to distinguish themselves from their peers.

ABOS Subspecialty Certification requirements can be found at ABPS Hand Surgery Examination requirements can be found at More information will be forthcoming from each Board.


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