Objectives & Goals - ABES



The role of ophthalmic surgery in maintaining the visual acuity of this nation’s population has expanded dramatically during the past ten years. The number of ophthalmologists performing surgery has, likewise, expanded significantly during this period. In the field of ophthalmology the American public is fortunate to have access to a large number of competent and highly skilled medical practitioners. Under the auspices of the American Academy of Ophthalmology diverse areas of specialty have developed and evolved both in academic and clinical settings. In the surgical area alone ophthalmologists have specialized in such areas as glaucoma, lens implantation, retina-vitreous, strabismus, cornea, cataract, plastics and refractive surgery.

Yet, despite the explosion of technology and the art of complex microsurgery, the present system of education and examination does not always fully correspond to the discreet and distinct areas of crucial surgical expertise.

It is within this framework that the concept to organize the American Board of Eye Surgery (ABES) was born. The fundamental objective of ABES is to ensure relevant and appropriate criteria to permit the identification and recognition of valid and accepted standards of quality and competency for eye surgery. The American Board of Eye Surgery will promote the highest possible quality ophthalmic surgical care through a certification program which includes, as one of its components, a process through which the surgeon’s surgical skills and judgment are tested and observed by his or her peers.

Thus, the underlying purpose of the American Board of Eye Surgery is to develop and maintain objective voluntary peer based examinations, assessments and certification programs for ophthalmic surgeons, to become a resource for them in providing the highest quality ophthalmic surgical care to their patients and to provide documentation, in the form of a certification, as having met the ABES standards of the quality for such services, whether it be the patient or a third party carrier.

To achieve this end, ABES intends:

  1. To establish standards of knowledge, judgment, and technical skill which demonstrate excellence in ophthalmic surgical care.
  2. To organize a system of examination by peers to determine the capability of individual ophthalmic surgeons to meet the established standards.
  3. To periodically reassess the adequacy of the mode of examination for certification.
  4. To issue certificates to those individual surgeons who demonstrate their excellence in ophthalmic surgery by meeting the established standards.
  5. To require individuals who have been certified as meeting the established standards to maintain their high level of performance by periodically submitting to recertification and continuing education.
  6. To conduct research to demonstrate and publicize the contribution of certification to quality patient care.
  7. To publish and manage other appropriate programs to further the cause of certification and excellence in ophthalmic surgical care.
  8. To arrange for the publication of a current listing of the names of the ophthalmologists certified by ABES.
  9. To assume such other responsibilities and conduct activities as are compatible with such standard setting examinations and certification programs, including coordination and cooperation with institutions of medical education.
  10. To assure that the ultimate objective of the programs and procedures implemented by the American Board of Eye Surgery are the enhancement of care provided to the ophthalmic surgical patient.

Certification by the American Board of Eye Surgery is intended to be evidence that an ophthalmologist’s surgical qualifications are recognized by his or her peers. It is not intended to define the requirements for membership on hospital staff, to define the scope of specialty practice or to state who may or may not engage in ophthalmic surgery. Sub-specialty certification does not relieve a hospital staff from responsibility in determining the hospital privileges of such specialists.

A surgical certification process is especially appropriate given the emphasis by governmental and private third party payors to medical cost control. The establishment of appropriate certification programs can assure that recognition is given to the quality, as well as the cost, of ophthalmic surgical care. Quality of care is strongly associated with improved efficiency and reduction of costs. This type of program has proven effective in other areas of medicine, such as the American Board of Plastic Surgery. At a time when consumers’ demand for information on qualified medical providers is dramatically increasing, sponsors of the American Board of Eye Surgery believe that it is imperative that high quality medicine, particularly in the area of eye surgery, be promoted and that non-biased and objective criteria be established and made available so that individuals and groups can make informed decisions on their selection of a health care provider.

The specific standards and procedures established by the American Board of Eye Surgery include outcome testing, and, most importantly, an examination involving the observation and evaluation of the applicant’s surgical skills by his or her peers. Certified surgeons will be periodically reevaluated at specific intervals, and only those individuals demonstrating high quality surgical skills and judgment will obtain and retain certification.

Appropriate standards have been scientifically developed by Professional Examination Service (PES), a nationally recognized testing service with considerable experience in the health care field.

Finally, as the state of the art continues to change, the American College of Eye Surgeons was established to hold seminars and provide “hands on” educational programs in order that certified surgeons and other ophthalmic surgeons can maintain the high quality of their surgical status and retain their certification status. Related organizations also may be established to receive contributions for research and to fund educational seminars or university programs.


The American Board of Eye Surgery is currently organized as a 501(c)(6) tax exempt organization and is incorporated in the District of Columbia. The organization is governed by a self-perpetuating Board of Directors consisting of no more than twenty individuals whose curriculum vitaes are available to all interested persons. Other professionals or health care organizations also may be invited to participate and select representatives to serve on the Board of Directors. An Executive Committee consisting of five individuals, appointed by ABES are authorized to take action on behalf of the Board of Directors in the intervals between Board meetings. Consideration will be given to inviting representatives of third party payors and consumers groups to participate as ex officio members of the Board of Directors.


Initially, approximately $125,000 was received from several nationally recognized ophthalmologists as the initial capitalization of the American Board of Eye Surgery. These funds were used for organizational expenses, including attorneys fees, the fees of the testing service, incorporation costs, accountants fees, and other organizational expenses. As expected, these funds covered the initial cost of most organizational expenses, with the exception of the fees of the testing service, which required additional funding.

The cost of operating the organization is funded through examination fees paid by applicants and, if necessary to support the organization, periodic certification fees paid by certified ophthalmologists. When appropriate, contributions may be solicited from qualified foundations for research and educational purposes.


The American Board of Eye Surgery is currently managed by an Executive Committee. The Executive Committee serves on a voluntary basis and is reimbursed for its expenses only. The Board employs an Executive Director to coordinate and manage its activities.


Professional Examination Service was contracted to establish the certification programs of the American Board of Eye Surgery. The committees assigned by American Board of Eye Surgery work closely with PES to ensure that appropriate written tests are devised and that appropriate objective standards are formulated for observation and testing of applicants’ surgical skill by their peers.