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Financial Stewardship FAQs

Over the next few months, Diplomate Digest will feature each of the seven principles that support the ABO’s mission: To serve the public by certifying ophthalmologists through the verification of competencies. Although the principle "The ABO stewards its finances with integrity and transparency" is not the first one listed on our web site, it may be the theme about which I and others on the Board are asked most often. These inquiries likely result from critical reports about the finances of some certifying boards, and our diplomates understandably and appropriately wish to be assured that their board is conducting its business affairs properly and with accountability. To that end, Dr. Hal Shaw, the chair of the ABO’s Finance Committee, has drafted responses to a number of questions that are relevant to this theme. We hope that you find the information useful and welcome your comments or additional questions. --George B. Bartley, M.D., CEO

Harold E. Shaw, Jr., M.D., Finance Chair

What is the ABO’s annual budget? What are its sources of revenue and how is the money spent?

As depicted in the accompanying graphic, the ABO’s sole source of income is fees for its examinations (Written, Oral, and Maintenance of Certification), totaling approximately $4.5 million annually. On the expense side, approximately $2.5 million is required to conduct the initial written ($815,000) and oral ($1.68 million) certifying examinations. Expenses to administer the Maintenance of Certification components (PORTs, DOCK, and the Practice Improvement Modules) tally approximately $1.8 million.

Are fees increased annually for the examinations?

No. Fees for the Written and Oral examinations have not been raised since 2007. The fees for Maintenance of Certification have not been raised since 2012.

Does the ABO maintain a balanced budget every year?

Although in most years the ABO has had a balanced budget, in 2017 the Board is projected to have an operational deficit of between $400,000 and $500,000. This results primarily from the implementation of new programs, such as Quarterly Questions, and a decrease in fees for Maintenance of Certification. The shortfall will be covered by reserve funds.

Why does the ABO have investments and reserves?

As is standard for most not-for-profit organizations, the ABO has supported a policy that requires sufficient reserves to allow the Board to function for at least one year in the event of extraordinary circumstances.

Does the ABO have real estate holdings or other tangible assets?

No. The office in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania is leased.

How many persons does the ABO employ and what do they do?

The ABO staff comprises 13 persons, including a Chief Executive Officer, an Administrator, a Written Examinations Coordinator, an Oral Examination Program Manager, a Maintenance of Certification Coordinator, an Examination Resource Coordinator, an Examination Development Coordinator, a Physician Services Coordinator, a Communications Coordinator, an Information Technology Program Manager, a Database Administrator, a Psychometrician, and an Administrative Assistant. All staff work from the ABO office in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, with the exception of the CEO (Rochester, Minnesota) and the Psychometrician (Chicago, Illinois). Specific role descriptions are available from the ABO office on request.

Is the ABO’s staffing similar to other certifying boards?

The organizational structures of certifying boards vary considerably. Some boards have a full-time physician CEO or Executive Director, while others distribute executive responsibilities among several part-time physicians or employ non-physicians. Some boards employ physicians on a part-time basis for examination development, a potential option for the ABO in the future. In general, the ABO’s staff-to-diplomate ratio is similar to other boards.

How much does the ABO pay to the American Board of Medical Specialties every year?

Each member board of the ABMS is assessed dues according to the number of certified diplomates. Dues for the ABO for 2017 are $122,812. The ABMS recently revised its dues methodology and the ABO dues are anticipated to increase to $174,000.

How is the ABO’s Chief Executive Officer compensated?

Dr. Bartley is employed by the Mayo Clinic, where he sees patients and performs surgery one day per week (0.2 FTE). The ABO remunerates the Mayo Clinic for the balance of his professional time (0.8 FTE), all of which is devoted to ABO responsibilities. His compensation is set at 80% (given his 0.8 FTE as ABO CEO) of the 75th percentile for ophthalmology department chairs from a salary survey from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Of note, Dr. Bartley served as Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology from 1992 – 2001, and as Chief Executive Officer of Mayo Clinic in Florida from 2002 – 2008.

Are ABO Directors compensated?

ABO Directors, both physician and public members, receive a per diem for meetings attended based on AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) data for the median salary for a professor of ophthalmology. The per diem is used to cover some expenses (lodging), whereas other expenses (meal allowance, transportation) are reimbursed by the ABO. The ABO does not pay for spousal or first class travel. The time commitment for a Director is approximately 10-15 workdays and at least three weekends per year, in addition to approximately four hours per week. The typical term for a Director is eight years.

Are the examiners for the Orals compensated?

The ABO relies on the extraordinarily generous support of hundreds of dedicated volunteers to conduct its work. Oral examiners pay their own way to and from the examination site. The ABO covers the cost of the hotel room (so long as the room is also used for the examination) and provides meals while the examiners are on site (with the exception of Saturday evening, which the examiners cover).

Does the ABO undergo periodic audits?

Yes. As a 501(c)(6) organization, the ABO is audited annually by Baker Tilly Virchow Krause of Philadelphia.

Why is the ABO incorporated in Minnesota when the office is in Pennsylvania?

The first Secretary-Treasurer of the American Board of Ophthalmic Examinations (the original name of the ABO) was Frank C. Todd, M.D. of Minneapolis. He incorporated the Board in his home state in May, 1917 and there has not been a compelling reason to change this during the past 100 years.

Where can I review the ABO’s IRS 990 form?

The mostly recently filed form can be accessed here. Please call or write to the ABO office for further information.

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