< Return to Main FAQ listing
Information for Patients and the Public:
The American Board of Ophthalmology and the Public Trust
The American Board of Ophthalmology is an independent, not-for-profit organization responsible for certifying ophthalmologists (eye physicians and surgeons) in the United States. The ABO was the first American board established to certify medical specialists and offers the only eye care certificate recognized by both the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Medical Association. Our mission is to serve the public by improving the quality of ophthalmic practice through a process of certification and Maintenance of Certification that fosters excellence and encourages continual learning.
The Definition of an Ophthalmologist
Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in comprehensive eye and vision care. They are the only practitioners who are medically and surgically trained to diagnose and treat the full range of disorders affecting the eye and surrounding tissues, in addition to prescribing glasses and contact lenses. The American Academy of Ophthalmology's EyeSmart website provides more information about the practice of ophthalmology, as well as definitions of non-physician eye care providers and their role in your eye and vision care.
Ophthalmologists in the United States typically have completed four years of college, four years of medical school, and four to six years of specialized training in ophthalmic diseases and surgery.
How Board Certification Impacts Care
Certification by the American Board of Ophthalmology is a voluntary last step in a long and intensive educational experience that demonstrates a physician has demonstrated the knowledge, skills and experience integral to the delivery of high standards in patient care. More details about the requirements a physician meets in order to obtain certification can be found here.
Is Your Doctor Certified?
To learn whether your ophthalmologist is certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology:
- Search for them via the ABO website by clicking the "Verify a Physician" tab at the top of the page.
- Call the American Board of Ophthalmology at 610-664-1175.
- Use ABMS website to verify the certification of any medical specialist certified by one of the 24 medical specialty boards or call 1-866-ASK-ABMS (275-2267).
- Refer to the publication The Official American Board of Medical Specialties Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists (ABMS). This publication of Marquis Who's Who can be found in regional, main, or medical libraries.
Other Patient Resources
The American Board of Ophthalmology does not have the resources to provide medical advice on eye care, surgical procedures or techniques. Because all certified ophthalmologists are subject to the same standards, we do not have sufficient information to recommend one doctor over another. Out of respect for the privacy of our certified physicians, we cannot share their personal information. The American Board of Ophthalmology also does not address patient-doctor conflicts/malpractice issues (these are handled by your state's medical licensing board).
However, because we understand that being an informed patient is integral to receiving quality health care, the American Board of Ophthalmology has compiled a list of potential resources where you can find information that may help you select a physician who is right for you. (The websites below are not sponsored by the American Board of Ophthalmology and the Board is not responsible for their content.)
- The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is a professional membership society for ophthalmologists (it is not affiliated with the Board). The AAO provides an online search tool called Find an Eye MD to locate the names of ophthalmologists in your area. This may be one way to begin your search. The AAO's foundation also provides a general eye health resource for the public called EyeSmart.
- Keep in mind that medical specialty certification, such as the certificate provided by the ABO, is an additional step beyond a medical license. A medical license is the minimum required by law to practice medicine and is state regulated. Your state's medical licensing board can provide information about a physician's educational background and license status, including disciplinary actions. The Federation of State Medical Licensing Boards (FSMB) lists each state's contact information.
- More information about medical conditions and/or procedures can usually be found by contacting a local teaching hospital in your area.
- The Eye Surgery Education Council, developed by members of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, provides information and assistance to patients and families who are exploring options for eye surgery.
Consumer health care tips are provided by the American Board of Medical Specialties (the umbrella organization for the 24 recognized medical specialty boards in the United States). ABMS also provides a special public information website called Certification Matters.