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Dr. Bruce Helps Residents Prepare for Board Certification

Dr. Jeffrey Bruce“It’s not rocket science!”

“It’s not brain surgery!”

Why do people say these things? They say them because rocket science and brain surgery are hard. It takes many years of study, hard work and dedication to become a rocket engineer or neurosurgeon.

In neurosurgery, the first step is to complete an undergraduate degree. This usually takes four years and includes advanced science and math classes. After a bachelor’s degree come four years of medical school.

Near the end of medical school a student interested in neurosurgery can apply for a residency in neurosurgery. Residency is where neurosurgery training happens in earnest. Here residents work directly with neurosurgery patients in a hospital setting. A typical residency program lasts seven to eight years—that’s 11 to 12 years of study after a bachelor’s degree.

During this residency the neurosurgeon can begin the process of becoming certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery (ABNS). Not all neurosurgeons choose to become certified—it’s a voluntary process.

A neurosurgeon is still a neurosurgeon without this certification. But certification shows that she has chosen to go beyond basic licensing requirements to meet higher standards set by the ABNS.

It is a requirement for all the neurosurgeons here at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital to go through this process.

Certification is a lengthy process. Candidates work on certification requirements throughout the rest of their residency, but the certification process does not end when the residency ends.

A candidate does not take her final certification steps until she has spent about three years working as a neurosurgeon after residency. (We’re now up to 14–15 years of training and study in addition to the bachelor’s degree.)

Then the candidates must pass their board exams. First comes a written exam, followed by an oral exam. These exams are comprehensive and rigorous: For the oral exam, candidates appear before members of the ABNS and demonstrate not only their knowledge, but also their skill and critical judgment.

It’s a test that draws on their entire experience in neurosurgery and includes cases from their first three years of work after residency. How does someone prepare for an exam like that?

Dr. Jeffrey Bruce knows a thing or two about this exam and about the entire certification process. He recently served as Chairman of the ABNS and has previously served as Secretary and Director. Dr. Bruce is invested in this certification process and wants the next generation of neurosurgeons to succeed in reaching this high standard.

That’s why this year, like last year, Dr. Bruce was on hand at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons to give neurosurgery residents some insight into the certification process.

He participated in a breakfast seminar panel called “ABNS Board Preparation: What You Must Know.” He and the other members of the panel talked to the residents about general requirements for certification and did mock oral exams with attendees.

Dr. Bruce’s goal was to help candidates feel more comfortable about the certification process and the upcoming oral exam. For these candidates, the end of the very long road to becoming a board-certified brain surgeon is near.

We wish all board-certification candidates the best of luck on their exams!

Learn about last year’s ABNS test-preparation seminar here.

Learn more about Dr. Jeffrey Bruce at his bio page here.

patient journey

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