APDS Statement Relating to Recent ABS Qualifying Exam

July 23, 2020

Team APDS,

As all are aware, the American Board of Surgery (ABS) Qualifying Exam was cancelled owing to challenges with an innovative attempt at virtual proctoring to maintain timeliness for our recent graduates in their pursuit of board certification.  The ABS has assumed accountability for the process which is appreciated: http://absurgery.org/default.jsp?news_virtualgsqe07.17

As an organization that recently experienced the sheer adrenaline fueled ramp up to accomplish our virtual meeting this past May – we are understanding of the magnitude of the endeavor and appreciate the ABS leadership and staff in their work to provide the opportunity for general surgery graduates.   As we become more reliant on information technology platforms to accomplish the things we do, there will undoubtedly be failures and our responses to these challenges will not only speak to the professionalism expected of our society, but further provide opportunities to improve our processes.  The COVID situation has been disruptive in all aspects of our lives; this is yet another example.  We’ve all had to endure inconveniences, adapt to different ways of doing things, and overcome significant burdens without lowering our standards.

We have been in contact with the ABS throughout this entire process and it is clear that our opinion and input is important during this critical time.   While it is important to note that there are general surgery residency programs that do not participate in the APDS – we represent the majority of programs and we are well represented on the at the ABS.  Past president Dr. John Mellinger is currently the Chair of the ABS.   Past President Tim Nelson is the Chair of the General Surgery Board.  Past President Dan Dent is on the General Surgery Board.   We have numerous other directors who have been integral to our leadership in the past and who are serving at the ABS.   We are well positioned to be part of the solutions.

Regarding the experience of our graduates last week – it was hard.  The emotional roller coaster and inherent challenges are quite evident through the variety of list serve posts over the past week.   It is important to separate this experience from the overall board certification process.  Most of us can hopefully agree that challenges during one examination attempt are not grounds for abruptly upturning a process which has been well substantiated and accepted by educators for many years.  We need to be thoughtful in how to accommodate those who were registered for the Qualifying Exam but also recognize this opportunity to contribute ideas and be engaged with evaluating the long term vision for board qualification and certification moving forward.

Respectfully submitted,

Benjamin Jarman, MD
APDS President on behalf of the Executive Committee