Board Certified Ophthalmologist

Why Become Board Certified?

Although it is a voluntary process, becoming a board certified ophthalmologist signifies a devotion to the profession and lifelong learning and training. State and territory medical boards set moderate competency levels for individuals applying for a medical license, especially those interested in a specialty field like ophthalmology. Certification boards have more rigorous certification and renewal standards, because it's the organization’s reputation on the line, and it's their role to help foster the profession to its highest form.  This is why many medical boards, hospitals, and other medical organizations respect and accept board certification for ophthalmologists. Board certification is another way to help ensure that ophthalmologists are well trained and have excellent skills in the medical specialty. This is why many patients, medical HR offices, insurance providers, and other medical organizations look for board certification when looking for the credentials of an ophthalmologist. The two professional boards that offer certification for ophthalmologists are the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) and the American Osteopathic Boards of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology (AOBOO). Board certification is not the same as state licensing.

One of the main benefits of board certification is the added professionalism and distinction, by voluntarily testing oneself to one of the high standards of the ophthalmology professions and joining a group known for this. This is evident because many hospitals and other large medical organizations require their ophthalmologists to be board certified. Even looking through job postings for an ophthalmologist will result in many postings requiring Board Certified (BC) or Board Eligible (BE) ophthalmologists. Another benefit is the acceptance of certification by many organizations like medical boards, which may use certification as verification for certain requirements.

American Board of Ophthalmology Certification

The American Board of Ophthalmology is one of the organizations that provides certification for ophthalmologists, and is part of the American Board of Medical Specialties. The requirements for certification are listed below:

  • Graduation from medical school
  • Completion of PGY-1 accredited by the ACGME
  • Completion of at least a 3 year residency in ophthalmology accredited by the ACGME or Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
  • Chair’s verification form required
  • Hold unrestricted medical license

After verification by the board of the complete application and supporting documents, the candidate applies for the Written Qualifying Examination, WQE, which is a 250 multiple-choice, computer based exam covering many areas of ophthalmology. The fee for the WQE is $1,650 and the test is administered through ACT testing centers, with a 5 hour testing time. The written part of the examination is graded on a pass/fail scoring, and those that have successfully passed it will be eligible to apply for and take the oral examination. Some of the topics covered on the WQE are listed below:

  • Optics and Refraction
  • Ophthalmic Pathology
  • Neuro-Ophthalmology
  • Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus
  • Eyelids, Lacrimal System, and Orbit
  • Cornea and External Disease/The Lens and Cataract
  • Glaucoma
  • Retina, Vitreous, and Uvea

The oral exam consists of patient evaluation in a half-day period, divided into six examinations that are reviewed by different examiners. The candidate must show skills in collecting patient information, diagnosing the possible conditions, and providing a treatment plan. Clinical skills, knowledge, and judgment are all part of the oral exam. The fee for the oral exam is $1,650 and is administered by the ABO in two groups; one in the fall and the other in the spring. The six major topics covered on the oral examinations are listed below:

  • Anterior Segment of the Eye
  • External Eye and Adnexa
  • Neuro-Ophthalmology and Orbit
  • Optics, Visual Physiology and Correction of Refractive Errors
  • Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus
  • Posterior Segment of the Eye

Maintenance of Certification (MOC)

American Board of Ophthalmology certification lasts 10 years before it needs to be renewed, and the new renewal method is Maintenance of Certification or MOC. MOC is designed to ensure that ophthalmologists are proficient in specific areas for quality patient care such as patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, and systems-based practice. MOC consists of 4 components that are separated into timeframes through the 10 year renewal period.

The first is the Evidence of Professional Standing, which requires ophthalmologists to maintain a valid and unrestricted medical license which will be submitted to the ABO during registration for MOC.

The second is Evaluation of Practice Performance which is done in the 3rd-4th year. This part involves the Office Record Review (ORR) which is a self assessment of clinical procedures through the reviewing of 15 patient records according to 3 ORR modules. This part can be done online.

The third part of the MOC is the Evidence of a Commitment to Lifelong Learning and Self Assessment, which consists of continuing medical education and 2 Periodic Ophthalmic Review Tests (PORT). For renewal, ophthalmologists must obtain 30 category 1 credit hours per year from an accredited organization. The PORT can be taken in the 5th-7th years and consists of 2 online 50 question tests; one covering ophthalmic knowledge and the other on practice subspecialties.

The last part of the MOC is the Evidence of Cognitive Expertise, which can be completed in the last two years. It consists of the Demonstration of Ophthalmic Cognitive Knowledge (DOCK) which is a 150 question computer-based exam given at ACT testing centers. The test is broken down to 50 questions on ophthalmic knowledge, and 2 modules on practice subspecialties with 50 questions.


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