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Thanksgiving, Celebration, and Hope

The year-end holidays remind us to give thanks for the past year, to celebrate all that is good in our lives, and to look forward to the opportunities ahead. As I conclude my first year as Chief Executive Officer of the American Board of Ophthalmology, I am grateful, joyful, and hopeful.

First, I wish to share our thanks to you, the members of the ABO diplomate community, for engaging with us to help design and create a better board certification process. We particularly appreciate the more than 250 diplomates who took the time to attend the focus groups that we held throughout the country this year. We have listened to your concerns and suggestions and are using them to make substantive changes in how we, the ophthalmic community, can demonstrate our professional achievements, competence, and professionalism to the public. One example is our new Quarterly Questions program, which was successfully launched with the assistance of more than 100 volunteer subject matter experts and 16 journal editors. As most of you know by now, Quarterly Questions will replace the DOCK examination during the coming months. The DOCK is an excellent test – as tests go – but you have told us that a closed-book, high stakes examination is not ideal for confirming that we are keeping up with new knowledge in our field. We thank you – especially the 1623 “early adopter” diplomates who have answered more than 63,000 Quarterly Questions thus far -- for catalyzing and facilitating the transition to a new and, we hope, more meaningful exercise.

My sense of joy results from all that you as ABO diplomates have accomplished this year. As a community we welcomed 501 new colleagues into our ranks and they are an impressive lot in every way. I had the privilege of speaking at the Young Ophthalmologists symposium at the American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting in New Orleans last month, and it was great to see that our specialty is “replenishing the herd” with physicians who are absolutely outstanding. Among those of us who have been ABO-certified for a decade or more, 897 colleagues successfully completed the various elements of recertification. Diplomates engaged in more than 800 patient safety activities and measured data in nearly 15,000 medical records to identify ways to improve the quality of care. ABO diplomates reported earning approximately 50,000 hours of continuing medical education in 2017 (which represents only about half the community’s actual CME, since data are collected every two years). These activities will do much to help us serve our patients better.

Looking ahead, I am excited about what we can accomplish together. My hopefulness is tempered, however, by a number of significant challenges, the most notable of which are legislative actions against board certification in multiple statehouses. If enacted, these laws could undermine the privilege of professional self-regulation that we have enjoyed for more than a century. I understand (and in some cases, empathize with) the reasons for these actions, but I do not believe that legislation is the best way to solve the problem. Rather, I hope that all certifying boards will do what the ABO is doing – collaborating with our membership organizations, such as the Academy and our various subspecialty societies. Working together, we can achieve the dual goals of serving our patients and advancing our profession. So I will end where I began – with thanks – to the leaders and members of those groups, that is, to all of you, for all that you do. Onward to 2018.

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