American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery

August 2018 Diplomate

Posted On: August 1, 2018

President’s Message

Our Roots……

In 1845 Dr. Nathan Davis introduced a resolution in the New York Medical Society calling for a nationwide organization to regulate the practice of medicine in the United States. This resolution would lead in 1847 to the formation of the American Medical Association (AMA), which sought to provide basic ethical standards for medical practice in this country. From there various specialty organizations were created, including the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) in 1887. After the turn of the century, the adequacy of graduate medical education facilities became a focus of scrutiny by the AMA. It was also determined that it was necessary to establish basic education standards for those with specialty training within the field of medicine.

As an outgrowth of this movement, the American Board of Ophthalmology was incorporated in 1917 and was the first American medical specialty board. In 1934 the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) was created by a committee of the AOA, tasked with setting practice standards for orthopaedic surgeons. The AOA created a committee the previous year to establish a permanent organization that would be more broadly based than the AOA and that became the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

There were nine original directors of the ABOS. Three individuals were chosen from each of the three organizations: AAOS, the AMA, and the AOA. Dr. Melvin Henderson (Rochester, MN) was selected as the first President of the ABOS in 1934. This tradition of director selection has continued to the present day, as our Board of Directors is nominated by these three organizations in a rotating fashion. It is no coincidence that the first meeting of the ABOS took place in the Palmer House, Chicago, IL, in 1934. It is also no coincidence that the ABOS has enjoyed a close and collaborative relationship with both the AAOS and the AOA for over 80 years, thereby building the “House of Orthopaedic Surgery.”

It is important to realize that the ABOS has no “members” but “Diplomates” upon whom the Board confers Certification. The ABOS is an assessment and certifying organization, with the primary mission of protecting the public by ensuring the safe and ethical practice of orthopaedic surgery. The ABOS mission statement reads:

“To ensure safe, ethical, and effective practice of orthopaedic surgery, the ABOS maintains the highest standards for education, practice, and conduct through examination, certification, and maintenance of certification for the benefit of the public.”

In 1977 the ABOS established a committee on Recertification, and “time-limited certificates” were first issued in 1986 for a 10-year certification cycle, once a Diplomate passed the Part II Oral Examination. The notion that competence should be demonstrated throughout one’s professional life was discussed among certifying organizations as early as the mid-1950s. This initiative was originally referred to as a “re-qualification” or as demonstration of “continued competence.” The ABOS is a part of the 24-member American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The ABMS was created in 1933 among representatives from the four specialty boards at the time (Dermatology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology) in order to provide national structure and oversight for the certifying bodies within the specialties of medicine. Currently, more than 28,000 orthopaedic surgeons are certified by the ABOS.

It is clear that our patients care about certification. Our new patient website My Certified Orthopaedic Surgeonhas been a popular tool for patients to learn more about ABOS Board Certification and what is required to be certified by the ABOS. For years, our Verify Certification page has been one of the most visited webpages on

Those who came before us recognized the importance of physician self-regulation. It is important that we continue this storied tradition in orthopaedic surgery for the protection of our patients. I, like you, am very proud to be certified by the ABOS. Many of you have already downloaded the Board Certified widget, pictured below, to place on your website. If not, you can find it by logging on to your ABOS Dashboard. Our Board Certified lapel pins and window clings have been popular as well. We will have them at our ABOS booth at September’s American Society for Surgery of the Hand Annual Meeting, in Boston, MA, as well as at future meetings where the ABOS exhibits. I, along with ABOS Directors Drs. Michael Bednar and Ann Van Heest, will be at the ABOS booth periodically throughout the week at the ASSH Meeting and would love to talk to you.

It is an honor to serve as the President of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. I always like hearing from you and learning what suggestions you might have regarding making our process better. Feel free to contact me at

Peter M. Murray, MD
President, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery

1) DeRosa GP. Seventy-five Years of Doing the Right Thing: The History of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, Chapel Hill, NC. 2009.

Executive Medical Director’s Report

More than 2,400 Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeons hold an American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) Subspecialty Certificate in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, while another 1,800 hold an ABOS Subspecialty Certificate in Surgery of the Hand. There are 37 ABOS Diplomates who hold both Subspecialty Certificates! I have had my Sports Medicine Subspecialty Certificate for more than 10 years, and I encourage my eligible colleagues to apply for a Subspecialty Certificate as well. In this article, I would like to describe the process to obtain ABOS Subspecialty Certification. You can also learn more by participating in a free webinar being produced by the ABOS on September 6th at 6 pm ET. You can register for that Thursday evening event by clicking on this link. If you are not able to make it live, a recording of the webinar will be posted to

After passing both the ABOS Part I Computer and Part II Oral Examinations, an orthopaedic surgeon becomes an ABOS Board Certified Diplomate for 10 years. Those individuals hold a General Orthopaedic Surgery Certificate. Any time after earning that General Certificate, and meeting the application requirements, an ABOS Diplomate can apply to obtain a Subspecialty Certificate in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine or Surgery of the Hand.

The Subspecialty Certificate is tailored to give extra recognition for those ABOS Board Certified orthopaedic surgeons who have demonstrated qualifications in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine or Surgery of the Hand beyond those expected of other orthopaedic surgeons by virtue of additional training, a practice characterized by a volume of cases in sports medicine/hand surgery, and significant contributions to their field.

Applicants must have completed a one-year fellowship in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine/Surgery of the Hand that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). In addition, a one-year Case List must be submitted with requirements for the types of cases that are submitted. More information about the Case List requirements can be found at

Applications for the 2019 ABOS Subspecialty Examination are available by logging on to your Password Protected Portal at and clicking on the Hand or Sports tab at the top. The application deadline is February 1, 2019. The examination consists of 175 multiple-choice questions and is given over a four-hour time period. The examination is designed to evaluate the Candidate’s cognitive knowledge relevant to Orthopaedic Sports Medicine or Surgery of the Hand.

Upon passing the examination, ABOS Diplomates receive the Subspecialty Certificate with an expiration date matching their General Certificate. A Diplomate can then recertify both the General Orthopaedic and Subspecialty Certificates either through a Combined Computer or Oral Examination or by successfully completing the Web-Based Longitudinal Assessment (ABOS WLA). If participating in the ABOS WLA, Diplomates holding Subspecialty Certification will be required to select five Knowledge Sources each year in their Subspecialty area.

Any Diplomate who qualifies for a Subspecialty Examination AND who is due to renew their General Orthopaedic Surgery Certificate may apply separately for both the Initial Subspecialty Examination and a corresponding Practice Profiled Examination. If the Diplomate is approved for both examinations, then the Diplomate will be allowed to utilize the administration of one examination for both the Initial Subspecialty and the Recertification of their General Orthopaedic Surgery Certificate. Please contact your Certification Specialistfor additional information.

The Subspecialty Certificate demonstrates expertise in your subspecialty and sets you apart from your colleagues. Once you earn that Subspecialty Certification, you can display a special widget on your website. In addition, you will receive a lapel pin, window cling, and patient brochures showing that you have successfully completed the requirements for Subspecialty Certification.

David F. Martin, MD
Executive Medical Director, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery


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