The ABS-VSB: Extolling the virtues of vascular surgery’s independent board

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Thomas Huber

The evolutionary process by which vascular surgery became a bona fide independent discipline has much to thank the American Board of Vascular Surgery (ABVS), but the specialty’s certification interests are now fully met by the American Board of Surgery Vascular Surgery Board (ABS-VSB), the annual meeting of the Florida Vascular Society (April 28–May 1) heard.

The message came during the gathering’s Presidential Address, entitled “The Vascular Surgery Board of the American Board of Surgery: Our independent board,” delivered by Thomas Huber, MD, also the current chairman of the ABS-VSB.

Huber took attendees on a history tour of the vascular surgical specialty’s development through the prism of evolving qualification and certification requirements; the evolution of the VSB inside the ABS into the status it occupies today; and the emergence of the ABVS in 1996 as it sought a fully separate board for vascular surgery. 

The purpose of the talk, Huber told Vascular Specialist in an interview shortly after his address, was to place the ABS-VSB in historical context and to elucidate its independent role in the certification of vascular surgeons. 

“Vascular surgery as a discipline really has evolved since the mid-1950s, and perhaps more so since the mid-70s,” he explains. “By the early-80s, it had come to the point where it was perceived, at least by the providers, as a separate discipline. The American Board of Surgery recognized that with additional qualifications in vascular surgery that morphed into added qualifications. The discipline continued to evolve into the 80s and the 90s.” 

By the mid-90s, a feeling had developed among the vascular surgery leadership of the time that their profession had evolved into “a truly separate discipline,” and that the ABS “was no longer meeting our needs,” Huber continues.

It was a divisive time for many, he says. But by 2006, a primary certificate for vascular surgery had emerged under the then sub-board VSB: “Despite the controversy and concerns, we were morphing in the right direction,” Huber says.

Meanwhile, the discipline itself was undergoing its “most dramatic change on top of all that” with the development of endovascular therapies, through the 90s and into the 2000s. “It was disruptive technology for vascular care so that the only people doing vascular surgery now in 2022 are truly vascular surgeons,” he adds.

At this juncture, Huber says the ABS-VSB has met vascular surgery’s needs for board certification, its primary responsibility. There are, of course, ongoing matters concerning the likes of predicted workforce shortages, appropriateness of care, and the training volume of open repairs, but the core purpose of the VSB is to certify candidates or maintain certification for practicing candidates, he points out.

In that vein, a “Blueprint” redesign is currently underway in order to eventually update what the VSB defines as “vascular surgery” in the wake of the discipline’s evolution.

The overarching message, Huber underscores, is that vascular surgery has evolved into a separate, independent discipline, “partly as a result of the leadership and effort of the ABVS,” he says. 

“For most vascular surgeons,” Huber reiterates, the issue of a separate board  has “come and gone,” adding: “My message is to be conciliatory: For the people who have brought this forward, all their goals, desires and wants have been met. We have moved on in a very positive light.” 

1 COMMENT

  1. Dr. Huber. While I give congratulations to the great job the VSB has done in advancing the specialty of vascular surgery and testing and approving candidates for the primary certificate, we are still not an independent board. We do not have all of the same advantages of an independent board. One key factor all other independent boards have is in repect to the review and approval of training programs via the RRC. While we have tried twice to bring that under the SVS and the VSB it has been unsuccessful. As someone who promotes and supports the idea of an independent board a balanced view of the issue would have been appropriate or at least commentary to provide
    the opposite view.

    Sean Lyden

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