OB-GYN tests go virtual; board cites COVID, abortion ruling

July 18, 2022 GMT

Many OB-GYNs, including some who perform abortions, are celebrating a decision that allows them to avoid traveling to Texas for certifying board exams.

Some feared gathering en masse would make them vulnerable to violence. Others who are pregnant themselves worried about developing complications and being forced to seek care in a state with strict abortion limits.

The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology exams are voluntary, but certification lends respect to doctors’ credentials, indicating they graduated from an accredited medical school and passed written and oral competency exams. Some employers also require the tests.

The Dallas-based board had held virtual exams during the pandemic but planned to have the upcoming fall oral exams in-person. On Thursday, the board announced a reversal, saying the exams would be virtual.

The decision was made “due to the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country and concerns regarding the U.S. Supreme Court opinion” that overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the board said.

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The switch came after many OB-GYNs — including some taking the tests and others administering the exams — objected to traveling to Texas.

“They’re scared. They have nothing to lose but their own personal safety,” said Dr. Jocelyn Fitzgerald, a Pennsylvania OB-GYN, who signed a petition against in-person exams.

The three-hour exams test skills, knowledge and ability to treat different conditions. The examiners also review cases related to patients whom doctors have treated during the past year, the board website says.

Doctors can start the certification process in their fourth year of medical residency training.

Fitzgerald, who has taken board exams in person and virtually, said the setup for both is similar and she could see no advantage to an in-person exam.

The board did not return calls and emails requesting comment.

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Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.