ITO Program - Eligibility and Requirements

The 2017 ITO application period is now closed. It will reopen in March 2018.

In future years, the program application period will run annually from March to November 1. Because the pathway was just approved in June 2017, applicants will have from July 31 to November 1, 2017 to apply.

Through board certification, the ABO provides assurance to patients and to the medical profession that physicians have demonstrated the knowledge, experience, and skills required for the delivery of high standards of patient care in ophthalmology. The current eligibility criteria for entry into the ABO certification process include the requirement that the candidate completed residency training either in an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical education (ACGME)-accredited training program in the United States or in a Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (RCPSC)-accredited training program in Canada. The ABO recognizes, however, that many licensed, qualified ophthalmologists who practice in the United States were trained elsewhere. Therefore, in accordance with its mission, the ABO has approved a pathway for internationally-trained ophthalmologists (ITOs) to obtain ABO Certification. The foundation of the Program for ITOs to Qualify for Participation in ABO Certification is a combination of verifiable information on the individual’s training and practice as well as participation in self-assessment and practice performance assessments.


Applicants must have a valid and unrestricted license to practice medicine in the United States for a minimum of five (5) consecutive years (since January 1, 2012) and must have been practicing in the United States for a minimum of five (5) consecutive years (since January 1, 2012). Applicants are also required to have a certificate from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). In addition to completing the ABO’s two-part certification examination process, participation in the ITO Program requires the submission of verifiable training and practice histories as well as participation in self-assessment and practice performance assessment activities. Complete program information can be found here.


  • Application: Submission of full application which includes the following: Contact/Biographical Information, Medical School Education, Post-Graduate Ophthalmology Training, Fellowship Training, List of all Current Active and Unrestricted License(s) to Practice Medicine in the United States, Attestation of Practice, Peer Letters of Recommendation, Personal Statement, Copy of CV, Attestation & Agreement
  • $1,000 Application Fee

If approved, participants are responsible for successfully completing the additional requirements of the Program to qualify to sit for the 2019 ABO Written Qualifying Examination, as outlined below, prior to the WQE registration deadline of December 1, 2018:

  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills: Completion of the ABO’s Patient Experience of Care (PEC) Survey. The PEC Survey consists of 15 questions (5 demographic and 10 specifically designed to assess a physician's communication style during the patient/doctor encounter.)
  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement: Participation in the ABO’s Improvement in Medical Practice Project (IMP) Program. Develop your own clinical or non-clinical project to make a change in your practice. Designing a practice improvement activity will require you to: identify a problem, examine relevant data, set improvement goals, identify plan and steps for improvement, conduct improvement (minimum of 90 days), and reflect on the outcomes and submit activity summary for credit. This activity must be fully completed by December 1, 2018 to be eligible for the 2019 WQE.
  • Systems-Based Practice: Completion of ABO’s Patient Safety Module. The ABO Patient Safety Module is designed to assess quality improvement knowledge, demonstrate valuable communication strategies, and promote team-based approaches to patient care. The educational module covers topics such as the cause and incidence of medical errors, the Plan-Do-Study-Act improvement cycle, and the Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation Technique (SBAR). The module was created by a committee of subject matter experts in ophthalmology, patient safety, and quality improvement, and was developed according to standards established by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

Once the additional requirements are completed, applicants become board-eligible candidates for ABO Certification and are subject to the Rules and Regulations of the ABO, which include, but are not limited to, the process and timelines for ABO Certification and Maintenance of Certification (MOC), including eligibility requirements and re-entry processes. Applicants who successfully complete the application and additional requirements will be sent information to register for the Written Qualifying Examination.

Candidates who successfully complete the Written Qualifying Examination and the Oral Examination will become Diplomates of the American Board of Ophthalmology and will be subject to the Maintenance of Certification process. Diplomates who obtain ABO Certification via the ITO pathway will be publicly identified as ABO-certified in the same manner as all ABO diplomates.

Complete program information can be found in the policy document, here.


  • Applications will be accepted from July 31 – November 1, 2017.
  • Complete applications will be reviewed from November 2, 2017 to February 28, 2018
  • Application decisions sent to applicants in March 2018
  • Once approved, participants must complete activities addressing the three remaining core competencies by December 1, 2018.
  • Once participants complete required activities by December 1, 2018, they will be permitted to register for the 2019 Written Qualifying Examination (WQE).
  • If any of the above-mentioned deadlines are not met, participants will not be eligible to sit for the 2019 WQE; they will however, be permitted to use the 2019 calendar year to complete any outstanding activities. Once the activities are complete, they will be permitted to register for the 2020 WQE.


Completion of the application does not guarantee program acceptance. If an application is incomplete the applicant will be notified and provided a two-week period to submit the requested information. All complete applications will be reviewed for approval by the ABO Chief Executive Officer and members of the ABO Admissions Committee. During this review, applicants may be asked to provide additional information. Approval or denial of an application by the ABO is final and not subject to appeal.

Application Materials

The 2017 ITO application period is now closed. It will reopen in March 2018.


Applications must be accompanied by a $1000 application and processing fee. This fee will be refunded to all individuals who are not eligible to participate in the program. Click here to remit the application fee.

Links and Downloads


If you have questions about this program please email the ABO office at or call (610) 664-1175.