Member Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties

Academic Pathway For ABNS Certification

Important Notice Regarding This Pathway

The program was launched once and immediately suspended due to the ABNS immediately recognizing institutions endeavoring to manipulate the process not aligned with the spirit or intent of the program. Following this, ABNS included a larger group of stakeholders for discussion.

Having taken the stakeholder input into account, refined the criteria so it more clearly matches the intent and ensuring that a very high bar has been set for an alternative pathway for truly exceptional individuals.

We strongly caution institutions not to seek to manipulate the system, such as by offering low-paid academic positions to individuals from non-ACGME residencies in the hope that those individuals will qualify for the alternative pathway. The pathway is intended to (and will be limited to) those who have made extraordinary contributions to the field of neurosurgery. ABNS forecasts that in a typical year that no more than 5-10 individuals are likely to be approved through the review process. We urge everyone who is interested, review the information on the attached FAQs.

This is a “demonstration” program. Which means it is subject to further refinement, suspension, and cancelation at any time without prior notice.

As stated, ABNS Bylaws and Rules (4.10) allow for, and have for years, “exceptions”; defined as “the applicant’s training, practice and professional stature leave no doubt as to their exceptional qualifications, the Board may grant permission for the applicant to be examined for certification.”

Frequently Asked Questions

The ABNS is implementing a demonstration program that will provide a pathway for neurosurgeons with exceptional qualifications who were not trained in an ACGME accredited residency program (EG trained abroad) to become ABNS certified. This pilot program is intended to recognize the meaningful contribution of widely acknowledged experts from non-ACGME training backgrounds (typically non-US training programs) to the training of neurosurgical residents and fellows.  The program is NOT intended to serve as an alternative path to ABNS certification for those who started but did not complete an ACGME-accredited residency program, or for individuals who applied for but were not accepted into an ACGME program.  Consequently, this program is NOT intended to replace the need for training within an ACGME approved program for the vast majority of candidates for ABNS Certification.   The review process to determine whether an individual is eligible under the pilot program is arduous and all aspects of the candidates training, and service history will be critically reviewed.  It is anticipated that very few candidates will qualify for approval along this pathway.  Candidates should also realize that this is a pilot program subject to change or expiration at any time.

Interested in applying?

Individuals applying through this pathway are not considered Board Eligible or Tracking to Board Certification. While in the process of applying and submitting the required case log these individuals may not refer to themselves as Board Eligible.

Once an individual completes the entire process, including passing the oral exam, they will be listed on the ABNS website as ABNS Certified and must comply with all ABNS Continuous Certification Requirements.

Application Requirements:

  • Documentation of at least 6 years employed as a full-time teaching faculty member in an ACGME neurological surgery residency program (similar in years to residency)
  • Documentation of completing a CAST/ACGME or other accredited fellowship in the United States
  • Demonstrated excellence as a clinician, educator, and researcher as evidenced by:
    • 6 Letters of recommendation from ABNS certified neurosurgeons
      • 3 must be from surgeons external to the program
      • 3 must be from Neurosurgery Department Chairs external to the program
    • 1 Letter from current Department Chair
  • A CV demonstrating significant academic contributions to the field of Neurosurgery
  • Minimum academic rank of Associate Professor
  • Documentation of satisfactory completion of a neurological surgery residency program outside of the United States, including a signed attestation by the Program Director and institution
    • All documentation must be in English (or English translation).
  • Documentation of having successfully passed the applicable certification examination in the candidate’s country of education and prior practice
    • All documentation must be in English (or English translation).
  • University documentation of rank of Associate Professor or higher at a University with an ACGME accredited Neurosurgery Residency
  • All documentation must be in English (or English translation).
  • Payment of non-refundable application fee (Partial refunds will be issued in the event the application does not go to the full board for a vote)

Maintaining ABNS Board Certification:

Once “Board Certified,” as with all ABNS Diplomates, awardees will be required to participate in the ABNS Continuous Certification program.

Steps to the process:

  1. Complete an application and pay the non-refundable application fee.
  2. ABNS Executive committee reviews application; if approved.
  3. ABNS Board of Directors must approve, unanimously, that the interested party may proceed with process.
  4. Register for the ABNS Primary Examination for credit, paying all applicable fees.
  5. Pass the ABNS Primary Examination; interested parties will be allowed three attempts within three years.
  6. Submit a case log (standard for all US applicants) for review using ABNS POST according to guidelines in place for all ABNS applicants.
  7. Update application (item 1) and resubmit with ABNS POST case log data.
  8. If the application and case log are approved, the interested party will be invited to register to take the oral examination.
  9. Register for the oral exam, paying all applicable fees.
  10. Pass all three sections of the ABNS oral examination; interested parties will be allowed three attempts within three years.

Other important information:

ABNS POST case logs will be assigned for review as all others.

Re-submitted application will be reviewed by two Directors which mirrors the initial certification process.

ABNS will perform a bi-annual review of the applicant pool and status of applications.

ABNS will reassess the pathway within two years of launch.

ABNS reserves the right to change requirements, suspend or cancel the program at any time without prior notice.