Financial Transparency: How the ABO Manages Revenue & Expenses

What is the ABO’s annual budget? What are its sources of revenue and how is the money spent?
The ABO’s sole source of income is fees for its examinations (Written, Oral, and Maintenance of Certification), totaling approximately $4.5 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 (PORTs, DOCK, and the Practice Improvement Modules) tally approximately $1.8 million.  

Are fees increased annually for the examinations?
No. The fees for Maintenance of Certification have not been raised since 2012. Fees for the Written and Oral examinations increased in 2018 for the first time since 2007.

Does the ABO maintain a balanced budget every year?
Although in most years the ABO has had a balanced budget, in 2017 the Board had an operational deficit of about $400,000. This resulted primarily from the implementation of new programs, such as Quarterly Questions, and a decrease in fees for Maintenance of Certification. The shortfall will be covered by reserve funds.

Why does the ABO have investments and reserves?
As is standard for most not-for-profit organizations, the ABO has supported a policy that requires sufficient reserves to allow the Board to function for at least one year in the event of extraordinary circumstances.   

Does the ABO have real estate holdings or other tangible assets?
No. The office in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania is leased.  

How many persons does the ABO employ and what do they do?
The ABO staff comprises 13 persons, including a Chief Executive Officer, an Administrator, a Written Examinations Coordinator, an Oral Examination Program Manager, a Maintenance of Certification Coordinator, an Examination Resource Coordinator, an Examination Development Coordinator, a Physician Services Coordinator, a Communications Coordinator, an Information Technology Program Manager, a Database Administrator, a Psychometrician, and an Administrative Assistant. All staff work from the ABO office in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, with the exception of the CEO (Rochester, Minnesota) and the Psychometrician (Chicago, Illinois). 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.  

How much does the ABO pay to the American Board of Medical Specialties every year?
Each member board of the ABMS is assessed dues according to the number of certified diplomates. Dues for the ABO for 2017 were $122,812. 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 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, are reimbursed for travel and expenses, and receive a per diem for weekday meetings attended based on AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) data for the median salary for a professor of ophthalmology. The ABO does not pay for spousal or first-class travel. 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 the hotel room (so long as the room is also used for the examination) and provides meals while the examiners are on site (with the exception of Saturday evening, which the examiners cover).  

Does the ABO undergo periodic audits?
Yes. As a 501(c)(6) organization, the ABO is audited annually by S.R. Snodgrass, P.C. of Pittsburgh.

Why is the ABO incorporated in Minnesota when the office is in Pennsylvania?
The first Secretary-Treasurer of the American Board of Ophthalmic Examinations (the original name of the ABO) was Frank C. Todd, M.D., of Minneapolis. He incorporated the Board in his home state in May 1917 and there has not been a compelling reason to change this during the past 100 years.  

Where can I review the ABO’s IRS 990 form?
The mostly recently filed form can be accessed here. Please call or write to the ABO office for further information.