The Vascular Surgery Board of the American Board of Surgery serves the public and the specialty of vascular surgery by providing leadership in surgical education and practice, by promoting excellence through rigorous evaluation and examination, and by promoting the highest standards for professionalism, lifelong learning, and the continuous certification of surgeons in practice.
Message from the Chair
With my first "Message from the Chair," I tried to describe how the Vascular Surgery Board (VSB) had reorganized in the setting of the American Board of Surgery (ABS) doing likewise. The VSB, while reaching equal footing with the other component boards of the ABS, is one of only two boards with a primary certificate. In addition, the new Continuous Certification Assessment (CCA) was generated to replace the old 10-year high-stakes recertification examination.
The CCA was felt to be an overwhelming success with vascular surgeons on exit survey, loving that the exam could be performed at home on their computer, over an extended period of time (two weeks) and was open book (we actually provide you with the references). The exiting test takers also suggested that the assessment was now more relevant to their practice. In fact, roughly two-thirds said they would change something in their practice as a result of taking the assessment, clearly attesting to this as a learning, and not an examination, exercise! With the focus on learning rather than memorization or test taking, the new CCA seems to be a big win for the vascular surgery community and our patients.
Then came the pandemic. With this, we first needed to postpone the Vascular Surgery Certifying Examination. Next, in combination with the APDVS, we had to postpone the Vascular Surgery Summit. The Summit is used to get stakeholders in vascular surgery education (VSB, APDVS, RRC, ACGME, and SVS) together to discuss important and contemporary issues that might need to be addressed to improve vascular surgery training. This has subsequently been rescheduled (virtually of course). Kellie Brown also presented at the virtual APDVS on behalf of the VSB in her role as vice chair-elect.
We next needed to address what was going to happen in terms of our trainees meeting the requirements to sit for the Qualifying Examination, when fellows and residents were cohorted or working on non-vascular surgery services to care for COVID-19 patients. In terms of exact numbers, the VSB delivered a statement reducing the overall number of cases from 250 to 225. In addition, the time in service for this year was decreased from 48 to 44 weeks, reducing both by a total of 10% from their normal threshold. We also stated that we would accept time studying for the RPVI exam, working on quality projects, etc., as time in vascular surgery service. Finally, even with these reductions, the VSB stated that it will consider applications for certification in which the program director attests that the vascular surgery trainee meets the "quality" threshold to sit for his or her boards.
At present, these changes are just for individuals completing training in the 2019-2020 academic year. I hope what you are reading into this is that the VSB is attempting to maintain maximal flexibility in order to get graduating trainees sitting for their boards, while also continuing to take our job seriously to protect the public by assuring we are providing safe, certified vascular surgeons.
These have been trying times. We realize the high anxiety associated with not being able to progress with board certification. This has been compounded by the closure of all of the QE testing centers. Importantly, know that, in conjunction with the ABS, the VSB is looking into methods to provide our trainees with a potential virtual certification process. The success of the CCA has given us hope that sometime in the near future, we will have a process that allows us to certify more deserving vascular surgery trainees!
Gilbert R. Upchurch, Jr. VSB Chair 2019-2021
VSB Director Spotlight
Ronald L. Dalman, M.D.
Dr. Ron Dalman was elected to the VSB in 2016, representing the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS). He is a past VSB Executive Committee member and past chair of the VSB Aortic CE Question Committee.
Following college and medical school at the University of Michigan, Dr. Dalman completed his residency training at the University of Washington - Seattle and a vascular surgery clinical fellowship at the Oregon Health Sciences University. Dr. Dalman's current practice scope encompasses the full spectrum of vascular surgery, including aortic, arterial, venous, access, and wound care. His clinical interests lie in the pathogenesis and treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms disease.
Dr. Dalman is the Walter C. and Elsa R. Chidester Professor of Surgery and chief of vascular surgery at Stanford Medicine. He also serves as the Associate Dean for Market Development at Stanford Medicine. A leader in the specialty of vascular surgery, Dr. Dalman is the current president-elect of the Society for Vascular Surgery. Previously, he served as a past-president of the Western Vascular Society and was a member of the ACGME Review Committee for Surgery.
"I am very grateful for the opportunities I've been given to serve the specialty, including our trainees and diplomates, over the past 10 years with the RC-S and VSB," he said.
In his free time, Dr. Dalman enjoys many outdoor activities, including biking, skiing, golfing and hiking.
Continuous Certification Update
The 2020 Vascular Surgery Continuous Certification Assessment (CCA) will proceed as scheduled, as it is flexible and completed 100% online.
The Vascular Surgery CCA focuses on the latest and most important developments in practice to assist diplomates in staying up to date. Vascular diplomates are presented with 40 questions that address important topics in vascular surgery. Topic areas will continue to evolve based on changes in the field of vascular surgery in addition to ongoing feedback from diplomates and surgical societies.
Once started, diplomates have up to two weeks to complete the assessment, with the opportunity to save progress and continue at a later time during this two-week period.
A list of topics and references are provided for transparency about the sources that support the development of the assessment, and to allow diplomates to hone in on specific areas to be aware of for the assessment.
The references reflect that the assessment primarily focuses on important evidence-based recent updates to vascular surgery practice. Diplomates are neither required nor expected to read all of these references before or during the completion of the assessment.
References for the 2020 Vascular Surgery Continuous Certification Assessment will be available in late summer. See the Assessment Reference Archive to find a catalog of all reference lists used in previous years.
Important Dates for 2020
Aug. 3 – Assessment registration opens
Sept. 7 – Assessment window opens
Nov. 2 – Last day to begin the assessment to ensure that you have the full two weeks
Nov. 16 – Assessment window closes and all requirements are due by 11:59 p.m. ET
Hardship Modifications to Continuous Certification Reporting Requirements
The VSB understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on practicing surgeons, and so modifications have been made to the Continuous Certification Program reporting requirements and the typical process for this year's Continuous Certification Assessment.
The 2020 Continuous Certification Assessment window will be extended beyond the typical eight weeks to give diplomates extra time to complete it. This year's assessment will be available from Monday, Sept. 7 – Monday, Nov. 16, 2020.
Diplomates who are enrolling in the Continuous Certification Program for the first time or who are already in the program and are on the normal Continuous Certification Assessment schedule will be able to take the assessment before completing the majority of their ongoing requirements. Once you pay your annual fee for 2020, you will immediately be able to unlock and complete the assessment.
As long as you complete your remaining requirements by Nov. 16, 2020, your status as of Jan. 1, 2021 will be listed as "Certified – Meeting CC Requirements." If you pass your assessment in 2020 but do not complete your requirements by Nov. 16, your status will be displayed as "Certified – Not Meeting CC Requirements" and will remain as such until those requirements are fulfilled.
The VSB encourages anyone who has a grace year available to them and feels that they are unprepared or unable to take the assessment this year in 2020 to take advantage of the grace year. Grace years are provided to diplomates who are enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program and do not pass an assessment when it is due. Diplomates entering the program for the first time in 2020 are considered enrolled in the program once all ongoing requirements are completed, such as reporting CME, and pay your annual fee.
Diplomates who used their grace year in 2019 will NOT be extended an additional grace year, and must complete and pass the assessment by 11:59 p.m. ET on Nov. 16.
For complete details regarding these modifications and for diplomates participating in a lapsed pathway to regain certification, please see our announcement.
Vascular Surgery Initial Certification Examinations
At this time, the September 14, 2020 Vascular Surgery QE will proceed as planned. If the need arises to consider modifications to the exam due to COVID-19, we will reassess the situation and make a decision closer to the exam date. Candidates who choose to wait have the option to postpone and take it in 2021, as there are multiple opportunities to take and pass the VQE.
In March, the VSB made the difficult decision to cancel the May administration of the Vascular Surgery Certifying Exam (VCE). At this time, the VSB is making every attempt to reschedule this exam for late summer 2020, and to allow for variances.
As of now, the Spring 2021 VCE will continue as scheduled. If necessary, the VSB will reassess and make a determination at that time.
COVID-19 Hardship Modifications to Vascular Surgery Training Requirements
The VSB recognizes that these are extraordinary times, and that our health systems, surgeons, patients, and the public are under a kind of strain we have never experienced. This has inevitably impacted the ability of vascular surgery trainees to meet the traditional requirements for application to initial certification examinations. In recognition of this fact, the VSB has made the following modifications to training requirements for individuals completing training in the 2019-2020 academic year:
The VSB will accept 44 weeks of clinical time (including the non-voluntary time) for the 2019-20 academic year, without the need for pre-approval, permission or explanation.
The VSB will accept a 10% decrease in total cases, or 225 cases, without the need for further documentation. Those who fall short of this minimum threshold may petition the VSB to grant credit for their final year.
Non-voluntary offsite time that is used for clinical or educational purposes can be counted as clinical time. The types of activities done in this time should be documented.
Program directors are entrusted, as they always are, to make a decision about the readiness of the resident for independent practice. If a trainee falls below the minimum thresholds for cases or training time, and the program director nevertheless endorses them as ready for independent practice, the VSB will seek a more detailed supporting statement.
The VSB is making every attempt to reschedule the 2020 Vascular Surgery CE for late summer 2020, and to allow for variances.
The Sept. 14, 2020 Vascular Surgery QE will proceed as scheduled at this time. The application is being modified to be completed and submitted all online.
These hardship modifications apply to the graduating class of 2020 only. As we develop a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on surgical training and the tools, options, and situational changes employed during this time, we will be better positioned to make recommendations for future trainees. We fully expect to recognize the impact of the pandemic for all current trainees.
Trainee-based FAQs are available detailing these hardship modifications to vascular surgery training requirements.
Volunteer with the VSB
Are you interested in volunteering with the Vascular Surgery Board? The VSB has hundreds of diplomate volunteers who write questions for our exams, serve as examiners for our Certifying Exams, and provide essential user testing and feedback on products such as our public website and diplomate portal. We are always accepting applications for additional volunteers, so if you are interested, please complete our volunteer form.