ST. LOUIS, MO (March 8, 2010) - On Friday, March 5, a new entity led by opponents of the American Board of Optometry (ABO) announced its formation. "The American Board of Clinical Optometry" (ABCO) is led by its executive director and president Art Epstein, O.D. Dr. Epstein is also an officer of the American Optometric Society. This new organization (ABCO) was formed over the course of eight months behind closed doors and its certification process was developed without the input of most of the organizations that guide and uphold the standards of the profession.
Since 2006, research and discussions have taken place openly among groups including the American Optometric Association (AOA), American Optometric Student Association (AOSA), the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) and the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO) about the need for optometrists to demonstrate ongoing certification through a standard, widely recognized and credible mechanism. These groups formed a Joint Board Certification Project Team (JBCPT) that released its proposed board certification model in January 2009. The proposal was voted on in the 2009 AOA House of Delegates, and the formation of the ABO was approved.
Since that time, the ABO has been developing a unified national platform to establish and demonstrate board certification and maintenance of certification. This will position the optometric profession for the future as nationally accepted requirements for quality measures, accountability and reporting in health care are introduced as elements of health care reform.
Members of the ABO have been working with health care policy leaders to ensure this voluntary process, independent of licensure, is the most appropriate and accepted mechanism for board certification in optometry. The ABO's process ensures that the quality of care provided by ABO-certified optometrists remains high, and it provides patients and consumers with the information about the quality of their care that will be integral to patients making health care decisions
The ABO has continued its development in an open and transparent manner and has received the encouragement of the National Committee for Quality Assurance for developing a mechanism that truly meets the standards for board certification and maintenance of certification. The ABO has now been formally incorporated, retained staff, and is moving forward with business development including issuing a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) for test development.
In contrast, although the formation of ABCO has apparently been in progress since Dr. Epstein registered a Web site address for the entity on July 3, 2009, it was developed without undergoing the scrutiny of leading optometric organizations or health care policy leaders. ABCO's maintenance of certification is, in part, based on the recommendation of ARBO. While participating as a member of the profession's JBCPT, ARBO declined a position on the ABO board in late summer of 2009 citing an inability to sign a memorandum of understanding with the other entities.