Evolving our Mission

If you ask many anesthesiologists why they do what they do, you’ll often hear it’s because our specialty puts us in situations where patients entrust us with their lives, allowing us to breathe for them in many cases and make them feel comfortable before, during and following procedures. Anesthesiology allows us to use the breadth of our medical training to care for patients and we’re passionate about seeing them through some of their most vulnerable moments without pain or discomfort.

This is what inspires many of us to do what we do, whether we’re in the OR, leading care teams, running an ICU, or helping patients manage their pain. As the certifying board for our specialty, this inspiration is woven into the work we do to develop innovative assessments designed to ensure that we have the knowledge and skills to take great care of every patient every day that we’re in practice.

As a Board of Directors, our 12 clinicians and one public member want to ensure that the ABA’s mission captures the essence of our calling. Our mission is central to all that we do. It should inspire our work as practicing anesthesiologists and as an organization that distinguishes physicians who demonstrate that they’ve met the certification standards.

Our current mission is to advance the highest standards of the practice of anesthesiology. While we remain dedicated to advancing our specialty, we’re considering whether advancing “the highest standards” continues to inspire us and the diplomates we serve.

Our programs have undergone significant transformation in recent years. We’ve revolutionized our initial certification program, beginning the process with the BASIC Exam during training to encourage sustained studying, and adding the Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) component at the end of the process to assess skills that were otherwise difficult to measure in the traditional oral exam.

We believe our initial certification system is among the most rigorous of the medical specialties. It’s hard. When anesthesiologists are certified, they can say with pride that they’ve met the high standard that’s been set for them and are expert physician consultants in our specialty.

With continuing certification, our intention is not to make diplomates once again prove they deserve the credential. Instead, our objective is to inspire them to be the best that they can be every day they care for patients. That’s why we adopted longitudinal assessment (MOCA Minute®), so we can assess knowledge while also providing diplomates with a self-assessment tool to guide continuing medical education. We still have work to do to meet our objective for continuing certification and are working on new tools to support diplomates’ professional development so they can advance excellence in our specialty.

This brings me back to our mission statement: To advance the highest standards of the practice of anesthesiology.This absolutely speaks to what we do, but as we evolve, the scope of our work has grown beyond advancing a “standard.” We also aspire to add value to anesthesiologists’ practice.

We set the standard by which anesthesiologists are certified; however, we also guide them through continuing certification, research the impact of our programs and continue to innovate based on what we’re seeing and learning. We are enthusiastic about the work we do and hope to bring that same inspiration to our fellow diplomates. That’s part of the rationale for taking cutting-edge approaches to assessment. We have tried in recent years to respond to the ever-evolving nature of medical practice.

We’ve also begun exploring future healthcare scenarios based on societal, technical, educational and economic trends to anticipate and proactively address future changes likely to impact anesthesiology practice.

We’re using these scenarios and what we’re learning from studying the impact of our programs on our diplomates, trainees and training programs to make data-driven decisions about where we’ll go next.

We are not charting this course in isolation. There are far more seats at the table than there once were. The ABA is not 13 directors making decisions from inside an ivory tower. We are a Board community of 12 practicing physicians and one public member, nearly 700 volunteers and more than 50,000 certified anesthesiologists. 

Diplomates are the board’s key constituents, and our best decisions are made when we have broad input from the collective community. That’s why we’ve sought anesthesiologists’ insights on a wide variety of topics, including their training and early-career experiences, perceptions of continuing certification and recent revisions to the Absence from Training Policy.

It’s your voices that inspire progress and innovation at the ABA. We want to nurture this same enthusiasm for continuous improvement and learning in our diplomates.

 So, as we consider who we are today and the Board we aspire to be in the future, it’s with our diplomates in mind. We’re working together with anesthesiologists from residency to retirement to inspire excellence in the practice of anesthesiology.

We’ll use the blog to keep you posted on our ongoing conversations about our mission as the year unfolds. In the meantime, please share how you believe our mission could evolve based on our desire to continue inspiring excellence in our specialty.


About the Author

Dr. Culley is president of the ABA and serves on its Credentialing and Continuing Certification and Research Committees. She is an attending physician and vice chair of research at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an associate professor of anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston.




  1. Great post keep up the great work!

  2. Wonderful post. While there are challenges to the longer term assessment through MOCA, I truly feel that it facilitates considerable self-reflection on our practice…. It is an opportunity to remind ourselves of our role in the peri-operative care of our patients. Thank you!