Board, Staff Working Together to Control Expenses
by Brent Wagner, MD, MBA, ABR Executive Director, and Vincent P. Mathews, MD, ABR President
Since March 2020, much of the ABR’s effort has been directed toward adjusting our exam delivery model to minimize health risks for our candidates. Specifically, the uncertain degree and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted modifications to mitigate the anxiety and delay of the multistep process toward board certification. In the first six months of this year, thousands of individuals will sit for remote exams, avoiding the cost, risk, and inconvenience of travel.
As the Board of Governors discussed these new exam tools, one of the perceived potential benefits was the intuitive opportunity to decrease costs and, by extension, reduce fees. However, there are persistent barriers to fee abatement at the time of this writing, including the absence of proven success of the new exam structure; a lack of dependable forecasts of the future steady state expense structure; the inherent long-term nature of established financial obligations related to exam center equipment and leases; and the unexpected short-term development costs of the virtual exam platform software.
ABR senior leadership is committed to working with the board to control costs. We are optimistic that this is achievable as we close in on the “new normal,” but we don’t know the extent of potential cost reductions, nor when they might be achieved. The less visible infrastructure elements of board functions, ranging from cybersecurity to volunteer support, are critical to customer service for our candidates and diplomates, as well as fulfillment of our core mission. Despite these obstacles, the board members view themselves as responsible stewards of ABR resources, both financial and otherwise. In this vein, they consistently challenge each other, and the ABR staff, to reduce costs and, subsequently, fees, to the extent possible.