2003-2013: A decade of major changes for the ABP

History of the Board


During this decade the Board instituted several major changes and innovations. These can be grouped into five categories; encouraging Board Certification, improving the Qualifying (written) Examination (QE), improving the Oral Examination (OE), changes in the Recertification process and Administrative changes.

The Mission of the ABP and one of its primary goals is to encourage periodontists to seek Diplomate status through the Board Certification process. This was always a goal that Jerry Bowers stressed and worked towards during his tenure as Executive Director. There were two major changes in the certification process that motivated a greater number of periodontists to take the Board exams while continuing to maintain the high standards of the Board. The first was to offer the Written Exam as a computer based examination at professional testing centers world-wide. Previously, a candidate had to attend the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) Annual Meeting to take the exam on paper which was a financial burden on new graduates. The second was to eliminate case reports for the OE with introduction of cases (protocols) where candidates were questioned on contemporary periodontal therapy and implantology by calibrated Examiners. This encouraged many more recent graduates to complete the certification process. Additionally, many periodontists who had been in practice for long periods of time decided to take the boards. The eligibility period to complete both exams was shortened to two years to encourage periodontists to stay on track to achieve Board Certification. As of 2013 approximately 2,500 periodontists are Board Certified with them not only reaching an important personal professional goal but also contributing toward the well-being of our specialty.

Several changes in the QE were approved by the Board over the past ten years. In keeping with other certifying boards the designation for the exam was changed from Written Examination to Qualifying Examination (QE). In 2007 the Board moved the management, administration and analysis of the exam from the American Dental Association to the Board office where staff assumed responsibility for the administrative development and management of the exam. A private psychometric company in Chicago was hired to assist with these tasks as well as providing analysis of the exam. The QE is administered world-wide through Pearson Vue computer testing centers. This allowed the Board to have better control of the yearly work in developing exam and also provided cost savings. Recently, the Board voted to use the talents of past Directors through service as members of the QE Committee. A maximum of three past Directors will be named to join the QE committee to assist in question development and construction of the exam.

As mentioned above, the most significant change in the OE was going from requiring case reports to protocols. Another major change was being able to administer the OE at a designated testing center in Dallas. This testing center has only one function; providing for the administration of oral exams by medical and dental boards. It is also utilized by the Pediatric Dentistry and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery boards for their oral exams. Candidates stay in a hotel that is separate from the one used by our Directors and Examiners. It was beneficial moving to this arrangement so that we can transport the two groups to the testing center separately. It has also been advantageous not having to use hotel rooms for administering the OE as was the case when the exam was administered at the infamous Harvey Hotel; a much more professional environment at the testing center. The Board also decided in 2010 to only offer the OE once per year; in early May. This change saved the Board about $80,000 per year on OE costs. In addition, it saved our Examiners and Directors from the loss of several practice days each year. In 2012 we felt it important to supplement the major procedural protocols with a small number of scenarios that could test the candidate’s expertise in such areas as periodontal medicine, periodontal pathology, medical emergencies, post-op complications and failures. We now present five 30 minute full length protocols and one protocol that consists of three, 10 minute “vignette” protocols. As is the case with the QE we can invite three past Directors to serve on the OE committee to assist with development of new protocols and to help assemble the next OE.

Over the past 10 years the Board also made some significant changes to the Recertification process. In 2005 the Directors felt that it would be beneficial to offer a recertification self-study for all Diplomates recertifying. The idea was to develop a computer delivered “self-study” program, with references provided for each question, to bring Diplomates up to date on newer techniques and technologies and to also provide a review of accepted therapies in periodontology and implantology. In 2007 the Board decided to make the Self-Study Recertification Program (SSRP) mandatory. No grades are recorded by the Board office; the Diplomate recieves his/her results on-line at the conclusion of completing the SSRP. Several of the other boards have high stakes exams for recertification where a passing grade is mandatory to maintain Diplomate status. In 2010 the Board decided to extend the recertification period from three years to six years with an increase in required continuing education points from 30 to 60 in addition to continuing with the required SSRP. This will be fully implemented beginning in 2014. As of the May, 2013 Oral Exam, new Diplomates will have time limited certificates. Failure to recertify during their required year of recertification will cause the periodontist to lose their Diplomate status, mandating beginning the process again with the QE. Most of the other certifying boards now have time limited certificates. Diplomates who became Board Certified prior to 2013 will not have time limited certificates.

Several “administrative” changes took place during the past 10 years. Jerry Bowers retired in October of 2008 after distinguished service as Executive Director since 1984. Kent Palcanis became Executive Director that October following the AAP meeting. The Bowers Fund reached its $1.5 million goal and continues to grow and provide support for many of the Board’s activities. This, along with a greater number of periodontists becoming board certified, allowed the Board to become self-sustaining, bringing to a close financial support from the AAP. In the summer of 2011 the Board office moved to a professional building in Severna Park, MD. This improved security and also provided required maintenance of the office, as well as greater convenience with regard to mailings and deliveries. Because of the greater amount of responsibilities and expertise in managing Board business the titles of our two staff members were changed; from Executive Secretary to Associate Executive Director and from Executive Assistant to Exam Coordinator. In 2013 the Board voted to change the term of office for a Director from six years to five years. This was done to encourage more qualified Diplomates to consider running for election as a Director. This will go into effect following the 2015 election and has been coordinated with the AAP’s election procedures.


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