Virtual VSB Certifying Exam ‘a huge success’

Out of a total of 169 candidates, only one failed to complete the VSB Certifying Exam

The virtually administered Vascular Surgery Certifying Exam (CE) has been declared “a huge success” by members of the Vascular Surgery Board (VSB). The VSB recently entered somewhat uncharted waters by conducting the image-heavy CE for remote test takers but recorded just one incomplete test, Board members revealed.  

Gilbert R. Upchurch, MD, chair of the VSB, revealed that 168 out of a total of 169 candidates successfully completed the exam process.

“The American Board of Surgery [ABS] had done previous Certifying Exams virtually, but we were the first group to use images, because vascular surgery is so image-conscious and image-needy,” Upchurch said.

“So, we developed the ability to use CAT [computerized axial tomography] scans, ultrasounds, pictures of patients, etc. That was a huge success. Every one of our clinical scenarios, or testing scenarios, had an image or multiple images. I think the way we did that, and the way we handled that, on the Vascular Surgery Board made for a completely successful Certifying Exam.”

After COVID-19 led to the cancellation of the CE last spring, a backlog of trainees waiting to take the exam developed. Fueled by the ABS experience administering the general surgery CE, the VSB explored the trickier undertaking of doing likewise with the vascular surgery version.

“Our vision was to make it identical to the in-person or face-to-face examination,” said Thomas S. Huber, MD, a member of the VSB. “That’s exactly how it worked out. We did need to incorporate a host and a proctor with the examiners in each of the virtual sessions to facilitate the exam process and for security reasons, and that, quite frankly, worked out famously. This was a total team effort from the VSB, our staff, and the volunteer examiners.  The whole group did an excellent job.”

Meanwhile, Upchurch said the VSB aims to have cleared the backlog of test takers by this summer.

“Hopefully by the middle of the summer, we’ll be caught up with all the finishing vascular surgeons and have them Board-certified,” Upchurch explained. “We have a qualifying Exam in April, and then another Certifying Exam for July or August, and then we’ll be caught up from COVID time—we’ll be back in real time.”


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