Maintenance of Certification (MOC)


Starting in January 2008, the American Board of Thoracic Surgery (ABTS) replaced its Recertification process with Maintenance of Certification (MOC) process. MOC is intended to give the public assurance that certified specialty physicians are maintaining high standards of clinical care throughout their career. For that reason, the Board requires that all Diplomates, including those who were certified before 1976 and hold life-time certificates, participate in MOC. The only exception is for those Diplomates who have notified the Board of their retirement and/or disability.

The ABTS MOC process is based on a 10-year cycle with a 5-year benchmark that Diplomates need to meet. During the fifth year, verification of licensure and hospital credentialing will be required. In addition, Diplomates are expected to take and complete the SESATS exercise. By the tenth year, Diplomates are expected to take and pass a secure, online exam. In addition, Diplomates will need to provide documentation of practice improvement and references, along with verification of licensure and hospital credentialing.

A summary of the four MOC components can be found below and specific MOC requirements for each Diplomate based on certificate year can be found in the right-hand column box on this page.

Part I - Professional Standing

Diplomates must hold a currently valid, full and unrestricted license to practice medicine. Diplomates must provide delineation of privileges at a hospital(s) accredited by the JCAHO or other institutions judged acceptable by the Board. Diplomates must also submit letter(s) of reference documenting their level of clinical activity and stature within the surgical community from the Chief of Staff and one other responsible member on staff at their principal hospital.

Part II - Lifelong Learning and Self-Assessment

Diplomates must complete 150 hours of AMA Category I CME over each 5-year period (an average of 30 hours per year). Half of the CME (75 hours) need to be in the broad category of cardiothoracic surgery. In addition, each Diplomate must complete the SESATS exercise during the fifth year of their MOC cycle. The Board reserves the right to randomly audit Diplomates and request copies of the CME certificates issued by a third party.  

Part III - Cognitive Expertise

Diplomates must take and pass a secure, online examination that will test fundamental and practice-related knowledge. Diplomates may take the exam starting in the eighth year but must pass it by their tenth year.

The Board’s MOC Exam Committee has chosen 100 questions from SESATS for you to complete. Questions on the MOC exam will be modular, based on your specialty, and presented in a self-assessment format. The Board anticipates the Diplomate will work through the questions, similar to previous experience with SESATS.  This new tool replaces the multiple-choice MOC exam, used in previous years, when Diplomates were required to go to a Pearson Testing Center.

Part IV - Evaluation of Performance in Practice

Diplomates who want to maintain their Certified-Active Status must complete Part (IV) of MOC; however, Diplomates on Certified-Inactive Status do not need to complete this component.

A. Peer Evaluation - The Board reserves the right to randomly audit Diplomates and request additional letters of references from referring physicians, colleagues, staff and patients.

B. Performance Improvement - The Board requires Diplomates to participate in a Practice Quality Improvement (PQI) project beginning in January 2016. The PQI project needs to be completed within two years of the 5-year and 10-year Milestones.  A description of the process and examples of PQI projects can be found on the ABTS website.


Please click here for PQI and Patient Safety examples.


C. Patient Safety Module - Diplomates who are involved in the 5- and 10-year milestones for MOC are required to take a Patient Safety Module/Course. You can find examples here

MOC Requirements by Certificate Year

Below are the requirements for MOC based on the valid through date of the ABTS Certificate.














MOC Exam Dates

The secure, online MOC exam must be completed during the time period of September 1, 2016 to October 31, 2016.  Only Diplomates whose certificates expire in 2016, 2017 or 2018 are eligible to take the 2016 exam.

American Board of Thoracic Surgery
633 North St. Clair Street, Suite 2320
Chicago, IL 60611
Tel: 312-202-5900
Fax: 312-202-5960

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