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Maintenance of Certification Application Process Computer Based Examinations
General Surgery Qualifying Examination Vascular Surgery, Pediatric Surgery and Surgical Critical Care (SCC) Certification In Training Examination (ABSITE)

Maintenance of Certification (MOC) - Overview

What is MOC?

Maintenance of Certification (MOC) is a program of continuous professional development created by the ABS with the other member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). MOC goes beyond traditional recertification at 10-year intervals to a ongoing process of education, assessment and improvement. MOC gives diplomates greater opportunity to assess the care they provide and formally demonstrate their commitment to lifelong learning and practice improvement.

MOC is a program developed by surgeons for surgeons. The ABS is working with specialty surgical organizations to ensure that MOC is relevant to all practice areas. MOC is also intended to be a single standard for documenting a surgeon's commitment to quality patient care. The ABS will coordinate its requirements with those of other regulatory organizations, such as state licensing boards, and is working with national and regional health insurers to gain recognition for diplomates participating in MOC.

How Does it Work?

ABS diplomates become enrolled in MOC once they certify or recertify in any ABS specialty after July 1, 2005. Until this occurs, the traditional recertification requirements for that specialty apply (see the respective recertification examination for eligibility and application requirements). MOC requirements run in three-year cycles. At the end of each cycle, diplomates report to the ABS about their MOC activities. A secure examination is also required at 10-year intervals. For diplomates who hold more than one certificate, only the secure examination must be repeated for each specialty.

Why Now?

Board certification is considered to be the gold standard in assuring that a surgeon has acquired and sustained a certain level of knowledge, skill and performance. MOC will ensure that board certification remains a recognized, surgeon-defined, standard of excellence. MOC will provide diplomates with improved learning opportunities and a means by which to document the quality care they provide, while giving patients greater assurance that a surgeon certified by the ABS is providing safe, effective treatment.

Four Parts

MOC consists of four parts designed to assess physician competencies on a continuous basis:

Part 1 - Professional standing through maintenance of an unrestricted medical license, hospital privileges and satisfactory references.

Part 2 - Lifelong learning and self-assessment through continuing education and periodic self-assessment.

Part 3 - Cognitive expertise based on performance on a secure examination.

Part 4 - Evaluation of performance in practice through tools such as outcome measures and quality improvement programs, and the evaluation of behaviors such as communication and professionalism.

Staying in Contact with the ABS

The ABS will keep diplomates informed about MOC through newsletters and e-mail updates, and will contact diplomates individually when submission of information is nearing due. Please keep your contact information with us current through My Records (log in required).


1) How do I enroll in MOC?
Diplomates are automatically enrolled in MOC upon certification or recertification in any specialty after July 1, 2005. Like recertification, MOC is a voluntary process, required only if a diplomate wishes to maintain ABS certification.

2) How does MOC differ from regular recertification?
Traditional recertification requires a diplomate to apply for recertification toward the end of the 10-year certification cycle and then take and pass a secure recertification examination. MOC goes beyond this requirement to include continuing education and assessment activities throughout the 10-year cycle.

3) Why should I participate in MOC?
MOC gives ABS diplomates a program by which they can document their commitment to ongoing learning, assessment and improvement. Participation in MOC demonstrates that a diplomate is making a concerted effort to sustain and improve the quality of care he or she delivers.

4) Once I am enrolled in MOC, how will I know when to submit something?
MOC requirements runs in three-year cycles (July 1-June 30), starting the July 1 following certification or recertification. Diplomates are required to report on their MOC activities at the end of each cycle. Once you are enrolled in MOC, you can view a personalized MOC Timeline to track your participation.

The ABS will contact you when you are in your third year of a three-year cycle and ask you to complete an online form about your MOC activities by June 30. Once you are contacted, you will be able to access the form on your MOC Timeline page. In addition, a secure examination is required at 10-year intervals. Please make sure to keep your contact information with us up to date.

5) What information is required for the online MOC form?
The online MOC form asks for information about your medical license, hospital privileges, hospital references, CME activities from the past three years, and what practice assessment program you are participating in. No operative or case data is required, nor any paper documentation. Once you complete and submit the online form, no further action is required unless you are contacted by the ABS. Otherwise you will not hear from the ABS after you submit your form.

6) Do I need to submit evidence of participation in a practice assessment program for Part 4?

The online MOC form that you will complete every three years contains a section for you to indicate or describe what activity you are doing to fulfill the Part 4 requirement. You are not required to submit operative or case data, nor any paper documentation. Please note, however, that a 12-month operative log is required for admission to the secure examination (Part 3).

7) I recertified in the fall of 2006. What do I need to do?
If you recertified in the fall of 2006, MOC went into effect for you as of July 1, 2007. MOC years run from July 1 to June 30, so you are now entering your third year of MOC. The ABS will contact you in January 2010 and ask you to complete an online form by June 30, 2010 about your MOC activities.

8) My certificate expires in 2012. What do I need to do?
Diplomates are automatically enrolled in MOC upon certification or recertification after July 1, 2005. Until then, traditional recertification requirements apply. You will be eligible to recertify three years before your certificate lapses - in your case, as of spring 2011. You will begin MOC the July 1 following your passing of the examination. Diplomates, however, are welcome to begin MOC early; starting MOC earlier than required will not change your certificate's expiration status.

9) I recently certified and am currently in a fellowship. Does MOC apply to me?
Your fellowship training fulfills Parts 2 and 4 of MOC and you are exempt from these requirements for the three-year cycle in which you complete the fellowship. However, you must still report to the ABS at three-year intervals by completing the online MOC form. There is a section on the form for you to describe your fellowship training. The fellowship must be approved by the ACGME or a recognized surgical society.

10) Are there fees to participate in MOC?
The ABS does not currently plan to institute fees for MOC, other than the application and examination fees already required for the secure recertification examination.

11) If I don't participate in MOC, what will happen?
Diplomates who do not meet MOC requirements after three years in MOC will be given a one-year grace period in which to come into compliance. Diplomates who continue not to participate will have their status reported as "Not Participating in MOC." They also will not be eligible to take the secure recertification examination until all MOC requirements are satisfied.

12) What if I am certified in more than one specialty?
The ABS allows lifelong learning/self-assessment and evaluation of performance in practice (Parts 2 and 4) performed for one certificate (ABS or another ABMS board) to be credited toward any other certificates a diplomate might hold. You must still report to the ABS at three-year intervals according to the timeline of the certification or recertification which initiated your enrollment in the ABS MOC Program. The reporting does not have to be repeated for other ABS certificates. The secure examination requirement (Part 3), however, must be fulfilled for all specialties in which you are certified.

Maintenance of Certification Application Process Computer Based Examinations
General Surgery Qualifying Examination Vascular Surgery, Pediatric Surgery and Surgical Critical Care (SCC) Certification In Training Examination (ABSITE)
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