New Trends at 25 Years: An American Board of Surgery Academic Certifying Examination Review Course

P. A. Rowland, G. A. Grindlinger, N. Maloney Patel, A. A. Alseidi, D. S. Lind, K. H. Sartorelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In the 1980s, a small research group began identifying variables affecting applicant success on the American Board of Surgery (ABS) Certifying Examination (CE). We now report success and trends as we complete 25 years. We had multiple challenges as identified through faculty focus groups and participant feedback that needed to be addressed: increase the national optics of the program, integrate new innovative experiences, maintain the integrity of the collected data on excel files, incorporate national trends in surgery, attract experienced clinical volunteer faculty and staff, security of capital, and schedule management. Method: The primary purpose of the program is to define the root cause interfering with success on the ABS CE. All of the listed changes in course design (2012-2016) were entered into excel files along with participants demographics, including results of the pretesting modules, the communication inventory, all self-reported stressors, and interview results to track the effect of faculty interventions, trends and ABS outcomes. Results: The profiles of the participants have changed over time, including: marital status, presence of DSM-5 stressors, gender, fellowship training, study habits, financial burdens, and international graduate status. International graduates demonstrated communication issues that were present, though rarely addressed, during residency training. The gradual absorption of junior faculty allowed a seamless transition over time as part of the succession plan. Although the national success rates on the CE were 72% to 80%, this program's success rate still remained in the 90 percentile (94%-97%) for those who followed their education improvement plan. Deidentified excel files will be converted to REDCap for preservation and analysis. Discussion: The small course design has continued to be effective at identifying variables that interfere with success on the CE examination. The inclusion of additional PhD education scientists facilitated focused individual interventions. A pilot program for international graduate status residents is in development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e120-e125
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Education


  • ABS board certification
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  • Medical Knowledge
  • Oral examinations
  • Patient Care
  • Physician professional image
  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • Professional behavior
  • Remediation


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