What is the ABOHNS?


The American Board of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery serves the public by assuring that diplomates meet our standards of training, knowledge and professionalism through initial and continuing certification.

Our objectives include:

  • To establish standards of eligibility for Otolaryngologist - Head and Neck Surgeons who desire and request board certification

  • To determine which candidates fulfill these standards of eligibility

  • To examine such candidates and issue certificates upon satisfactory completion of requirements

  • To ensure those who attain board certification continue to meet the standards set forth by the ABOHNS throughout their careers

  • To encourage development and maintenance of the highest standards in the teaching and training of Otolaryngologist - Head and Neck Surgeons

The ABOHNS is strongly committed to the promotion of professionalism and safe, high-quality specialty care through professional self-regulation. The ABOHNS certification goes beyond state medical licensure, which represents the minimum requirements to legally, independently provide patient care. The ABOHNS establishes the highest standards for patient care in the specialty and subspecialties of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery.

The primary responsibility of the ABOHNS is to the public. While it carefully considers the concerns of and impact of board certification for physicians, the public’s best interest guides the ABOHNS’ decision-making first and foremost. The ABOHNS is a certifying body, not a membership organization. Board-certified Otolaryngologist - Head and Neck Surgeons are referred to as diplomates of the ABOHNS.


At the 1912 meeting of the American Laryngological, Rhinological, and Otological Society (a.k.a The Triological Society), Dr. Wishart proposed a standardized period of post-graduate medical education for its specialists which would be part of a certification process. This initiative, the first of its kind, was published in The Laryngoscope in 1913, and embraced by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology (now two separate academies).

The American Board of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (ABOHNS) was subsequently founded and incorporated in 1924. It was the second specialty certifying body founded, following shortly after the establishment of the American Board of Ophthalmology in 1916. Today, there are 24 Member Boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), and ABOHNS was one of the founding boards for this organization in 1933.

Founding members of the ABOHNS included representatives from each of the following specialty organizations: 

The Board started by establishing a recommended three-year training curriculum. Then, at the request from the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), it developed and administered a certifying examination. 

In its early decades, the ABOHNS provided accreditation for Otolaryngology residencies. In 1953, this role was taken on by the Residency Review Committee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

In 2002, in accordance with ABMS Standards, ABOHNS initiated its Continuing Certification program.

In 2018, the ABOHNS received approval from the ABMS Board of Directors to change the name of the organization to the American Board of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (ABOHNS) which best defines the specialty and its diplomates' scope of practice.

For those interested in a detailed history of the Board, an article published at the 75th Anniversary of the ABOHNS shares background through 1998. Plans for an updated article in celebration of the board's 100th Anniversary in 1924 have begun.