American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery


History of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery

The first formally organized body representing orthopaedic surgery was the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA), established in 1887. This group met annually for fellowship and the advancement of orthopaedic surgery knowledge and science. In 1931, the AOA formed two committees which eventually changed the entire structure of the American orthopaedic community. The first committee was charged with establishing a permanent organization which would be more broadly based than the AOA and would not have the AOA’s membership restrictions. This was the beginning of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) which was founded in 1933. The second committee was formed to investigate the establishment of an orthopaedic specialty board.

In January 1933, the AOA recommended the specific composition of a board for orthopaedic certification consisting of representatives of the AOA, the AAOS and the Section of Orthopaedic Surgery of the American Medical Association (AMA). In February 1934, Articles of Incorporation were developed setting forth the objectives of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS). Soon thereafter the ABOS formed an Examinations Committee, an Eligibility Committee, and a Residency Training Committee which was responsible for the evaluation of hospitals and medical schools that were educating young surgeons to become orthopaedic surgeons.

In 1936, the ABOS published formal requirements for certification which stipulated that a candidate (a) must be a graduate of a medical school approved by the AMA Council of Medical Education and Hospitals, (b) must be of high ethical and professional standing, (c) must be duly authorized to practice medicine in the state or province of his residence, (d) must be a member of the AMA or other society approved by the AMA Council on Medical Education and Hospitals, (e) after 1938 must have three years of concentrated instruction in orthopaedic surgery approved by and acceptable to the ABOS, and (f) must have had two years further experience in the actual practice of orthopaedic surgery and also have knowledge of the basic medical sciences related to orthopaedic surgery. Thus, the first formal educational standards were established for orthopaedic surgery in the United States.

The ABOS is one of 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The ABMS had its beginnings as the Advisory Board for Medical Specialties which was fathered in 1933 by the four boards existing at that time: ophthalmology, otolaryngology, dermatology, and obstetrics and gynecology. Through the years it was reorganized and renamed the American Board of Medical Specialties and all cooperating certifying boards agreed to abide by the decisions made by the ABMS.

Directors of the ABOS are elected by closed ballot from slates proposed by the AMA Council on Medical Education, the AOA, and the AAOS. Each organization nominates individuals in two of every three years. Thus, each year two new Directors are elected to the ABOS and two Senior Directors rotate off the Board.

Originally the ABOS consisted of nine Directors – three from each of the nominating organizations. In 1960, the Board was increased to 12 active members using the nominating process as stated above. In the 1980s, the Board changed its bylaws so that Directors who completed six years of service could remain on for an additional three years as a Senior Director. In 2002, the Board voted to add a public member who is elected for a three-year term and can be reelected for an additional term of three years. A full complement of the Board consists of two Directors-elect, 12 Directors, one Public Director, and six Senior Directors. ABOS Directors serve without compensation.


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