Update to the Board's Position on 'board certification' in Optometry


August 31, 2012

To: North Carolina Licensed Optometrist

From: North Carolina State Board of Optometry

Re: Update to Board’s Position on “board certification” in optometry

The Board is aware of the conclusion of litigation between the American Optometric Society and the American Board of Optometry (Case number CV 10-03983 AHM) in the United States District Court for the Central District of California involving a Lanham Act “false advertising” claim and other claims relating to the ABO’s administration of a “board certification” program for optometrists. This update is issued for the purpose of clarifying this Board’s position on the ABO’s board certification program.

In its Findings of Fact dismissing the AOS Lanham Act claim, the District Court found only that AOS had not proved that ABO violated the act; he made no finding that the ABO did not violate the act. We do not believe that such a finding is binding in any way on this Board, in part because the jurisdiction of the two bodies is so different and because the Board does not have any authority to enforce the Lanham Act. In other words, the Board has its own authority to determine what practices violate its statutes and rules, and such authority is unaffected by the court’s ruling.

We note also that in January 2011, during the course of the California proceeding, ABO removed certain statements that had appeared on its website, including statements relating to competence beyond entry level for optometric licensure, exceeding requirements for licensure, and highest level of certification possible in connection with the ABO board certification program.

To date, this Board has not been presented with any information tending to indicate that the ABO board certification program denotes education, training, or experience beyond that possessed by the typical optometrist licensed by this Board. Likewise, the Board sees no evidence that an ABO board certified North Carolina optometrist is, solely as a result of such board certification, likely to be any more competent that an optometrist licensed by this Board who is not ABO board certified.

Accordingly, this Board has not changed its position as expressed in its August 6, 2009 Notice to North Carolina Optometrists that “Board certification by The American Board of Optometry is not recognized by the North Carolina State Board of Examiners in Optometry as denoting any education, training, experience, or expertise other than that required for continued licensure in North Carolina.”

Should you have questions concerning the Board’s position in this matter you may access previous memoranda from the Board on “board certification” and “maintenance of competence” under “News” on the Board’s website at www.ncoptometry.org; or you can call the Board’s Executive Director at (910) 285-3160 or (800) 426-4457.