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Financial Transparency: How the ABO Manages Expenses & Revenue (2018)

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 $4.8 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 (Quarterly Questions, DOCK, and Improvement in Medical Practice Activities) tally approximately $1.8 million.

Are fees increased annually for the examinations?

No. Fees for the Written Qualifying Examination and Oral Examination were recently increased to $1,950 per exam. This was the first increase in initial certification fees since 2007. The fees for Maintenance of Certification have not been raised since 2012.

Does the ABO maintain a balanced budget every year?

In most years, the ABO has a balanced budget. If a deficit should occur, through unanticipated or special expenses (e.g., launching the Quarterly Questions program in 2017) or decreased revenue, the shortfall is covered through a reserve fund.

Why does the ABO have investments and reserves?

Like most not-for-profit organizations, the ABO seeks to maintain sufficient reserves to allow the organization to function for at least one year (and ideally two years) in the event of extraordinary financial circumstances.

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

No. The office in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania has been leased since 1980. As of October 31, 2018, the ABO will transition to a virtual office.

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

The ABO staff comprises 12 persons, including a Chief Executive Officer, Administrator, Written Examinations Coordinator, Maintenance of Certification Coordinator, Examination Resource Coordinator, Examination Development Coordinator, Physician Services Coordinator, Communications Director, Information Technology Program Manager, Database Administrator, Psychometrician, and Administrative Assistant. The ABO uses a distributed workforce model with staff who work from remote locations. 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.

As a member board, how much does the ABO pay to the American Board of Medical Specialties every year?

The ABO pays a yearly fee to the ABMS for each diplomate certified. Dues for the ABO for 2018 are $140,280. 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 Mayo Clinic 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 ($1,000) for meetings attended (weekdays only). No per diems are provided for Oral Examination days. Transportation, lodging, and a limited allowance for meals are covered by the ABO. The ABO reimburses directors for economy-class travel. Spousal travel is not covered. All physician directors pay MOC fees. 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 examiners’ hotel rooms (the room is also used for the oral examinations) and provides on-site meals (with the exception of Saturday evening, for which the examiners pay themselves).

Does the ABO undergo periodic audits?

Yes. As a 501(c)(6) organization, the ABO is audited annually by S.R. Snodgrass of King of Prussia, PA. The ABO has also been awarded the 2018 Platinum Seal of Transparency by GuideStar, the world’s largest source of nonprofit information. Detailed organizational and financial information is posted on the ABO’s GuideStar profile.

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

The most recently filed form can be accessed here. Detailed organization and financial information about the ABO is also available on GuideStar. Please call or write to the ABO office for further information.

Are payments made to the ABO tax deductible? Where can I find the ABO’s federal tax ID?

Fees paid to the ABO are not tax deductible as charitable contributions; however, they may be tax deductible under other provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. Please consult your tax preparer for guidance. The ABO's business tax information is listed on our 990.

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