With regret, the American Board of Ophthalmology has decided to postpone its Oral Examination scheduled for March 19-21 in Phoenix. Several factors led to this decision.
Public Safety: For more than a century, the primary mission of the ABO has been to serve and protect the public. Although the actual risk of the COVID-19 outbreak is not known, bringing nearly 900 candidates, examiners, volunteers, and ABO staff together in close proximity carries a significant potential public health risk. In an ambiguous situation, the ABO believes that it is appropriate to err on the side of patient safety. Nearly all of us – candidates, examiners, volunteers, and ABO Directors – care for patients who are especially vulnerable to infections and their best interests must be paramount.
Travel Restrictions and Quarantines: During the past several days, multiple health care institutions have issued restrictions on domestic travel – restrictions that go beyond the Centers for Disease Control guidelines on which the ABO has been basing its approach to the Oral Examination. These travel restrictions prohibit many of our volunteer examiners from traveling to Phoenix to administer the examination (which, incidentally, they do at their own expense). Additionally, the ABO has learned that some institutions require physicians who have traveled to locales where COVID-19 infections have been diagnosed to self-quarantine for 14 days on return home.
Candidate Equity: The ABO strives to administer a fair, valid, and reliable examination to each candidate. We are unable to meet this goal if our cadre of examiners is insufficient to serve the number of candidates.
Where do we go from here? Recognizing that candidates have worked hard to prepare for this examination, the ABO hopes to reschedule the Oral Examination as soon as possible. All fees will be transferable to the next administration and each candidate’s Board Eligibility window (seven years following graduation from residency) will be extended accordingly. We believe that most airlines will allow a ticket to be rebooked without penalty. If not, however, the ABO will cover the change fee difference up to $300 with documentation.
This is an unprecedented event in the ABO’s 104-year history and we apologize for the inconvenience to our candidates, examiners, and volunteers. Thank you for your understanding.
Respectfully and on behalf of the American Board of Ophthalmology,
George B. Bartley, M.D.
Chief Executive Officer