MDS Subspecialty Certification FAQs

MDS Subspecialty Certification 
Frequently Asked Questions

Exam Eligibility
Exam Administration

Exam Development
MDS Continuing Certification 


Who is eligible to take the MDS Exam?
Candidates who wish to sit for the MDS Exam must:

1. Possess a current, valid, full and unrestricted license to practice medicine or osteopathy in at least one state or province within the United States or Canada;
2. Hold primary certification in general dermatology from ABD;
3. Be up to date in Maintenance of Certification (MOC) if certification by ABD is time-limited;
4. Demonstrate experience in the subspecialty by:
          successfully completing the ACGME-accredited MSDO fellowship
          attesting to active practice of micrographic surgery as part of one’s patient care activities*
              * during an initial five-year practice pathway eligibility period only

Must every candidate seeking the MDS subspecialty certification complete the ACGME-accredited fellowship in MSDO? 
No, for the initial five years, the ABD created a way for physicians who attest to performing micrographic surgery to attain the subspecialty certification without completing the ACGME-accredited fellowship in MSDO - this option is known as the practice pathway.

How long will the MDS Practice Pathway be available?
The self-attest eligibility practice pathway is available during the first five years in which the exam is offered (2021-2025). Starting in 2026, any ABD-certified dermatologist who wishes to become certified in MDS must successfully complete the ACGME fellowship in MSDO to be eligible to sit for the MDS Exam. Individuals who first become certified in general dermatology during the years of the practice pathway (2021-2025) may become certified in MDS through the practice pathway provided that they meet all requirements for MDS certification.  However, the practice pathway opportunity will not be extended beyond 2025, regardless of the date of initial certification.

Do I need to submit a case log, or any other documentation, to be approved to take the MDS Exam?
No. During the five -year practice pathway, exam candidates must attest to practicing micrographic surgery. Further documentation will not be requested on the application form; however, ABD retains the right to verify.

There are diplomates of ABMS Boards other than ABD who have completed a fellowship in Mohs micrographic surgery.  Will they qualify for MDS certification by ABD?
No.  To be certified in MDS by ABD, one must be a diplomate of ABD.  However, the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, with the cooperation of ABD, have submitted applications to ABMS to be Qualifying Boards for MDS subspecialty certification offered by ABD.  If their applications are approved, these FAQs will be updated to provide more detailed information. 


When will the first Micrographic Dermatologic Surgery (MDS) Exam be administered?
ABD diplomates’ first opportunity to take the exam to become a board-certified Micrographic Dermatologic surgeon is tentatively planned for the fall of 2021.

How often will the MDS Exam be administered?
The MDS Exam will be administered annually. ABD diplomates’ first opportunity to take the MDS Exam is tentatively planned for the fall of 2021 .

Where will the MDS Exam be administered? 
The MDS Exam will be administered at Pearson VUE testing centers nationwide. You can find the location nearest you by visiting the ABD page on Pearson VUE’s website.

Will the MDS Exam be offered via Remote Proctoring in my home or office? 
No. The MDS Exam will be administered exclusively at Pearson VUE testing centers.

What is the fee to take the MDS Exam? 
The MDS Exam fee will be $1800, which is consistent with the fees for our other subspecialty certification exams.  

How many questions will be on the MDS Exam?
The MDS Exam will consist of approximately 200 questions.

What is the pass rate for the MDS Exam?
There will be no pre-set pass rate for the MDS Exam given that it is “criterion-based,” meaning that it is possible that all candidates could pass the test if they perform at a certain level. For example, the ABD does not state that “candidates performing X standard deviations below the mean will fail,” which would be an alternative form of testing known as “normative-based” testing.

How many times can the MDS Exam be taken? 
The MDS Exam can be repeated annually during the five-year practice pathway, provided the candidate meets the exam eligibility requirements. After the five-year practice pathway, only those who have successfully completed an ACGME-accredited program will be able to take the examination. For graduates of ACGME-accredited fellowships, the window of eligibility will close five years after graduation from the program, or at the conclusion of the practice pathway, whichever is later.


Who will develop questions for the MDS Certifying Exam?
The volunteer members of the ABD Surgical Dermatology Content Development Committee will create the MDS Exam questions.

What is the ABD Surgical Dermatology Content Development Committee?
This committee devises the surgical dermatology content for all ABD exams. The committee consists of a nationally representative group of board-certified physician volunteers, with roles in both academic medicine and private practice. A portion of the committee members are ABD Directors, but the remaining members are non-Directors who typically serve three-year terms. Each year, committee members submit approximately 20 questions, in accordance with a detailed topic-driven item writing assignment. All items go through a committee-wide blind review process to confirm the appropriateness of the content area, clarity of the item and the validity of the correct response. Following that, the committee convenes for a two-day, in-person meeting to review, discuss and edit all questions submitted by the committee. This rigorous review process ensures consensus support for the content being tested.

Who serves on the ABD’s Surgical Dermatology Content Development Committee?
The 2019 members of the committee include:

Carl V. Washington, Chair
Allison T. Vidimos, Vice Chair
Christopher K. Bichakjian
David M. Allen* 
Jerry Brewer*
John Carucci*
Leslie Christenson* 
Shilpi Khetarpal*
Kavita Mariwalla*
Alex Miller*
Cindy Firkins Smith*
Christie Travelute*
Sandy Tsao*
Siegrid Yu*

*Non-ABD Director member

What resources are available to help me prepare for the MDS Exam?
The MDS Exam Study Guide is available to help candidates prepare for the exam. It provides an overview of the knowledge and skills obtained through fellowship training in micrographic dermatologic surgery. The Study Guide may be updated periodically during the exam development process.

Is every subject on the exam included in the MDS Exam Study Guide?
Although an effort has been made to cover the content that may be on the exam, there is no guarantee that every subject on the exam will have been included in the Study Guide. On an ongoing basis, ABD and the Content Development Committee will update the Study Guide to reflect the exam to the best of its ability.


Will a subspecialty certificate in MDS be time-limited?
Yes, candidates who pass the MDS Exam will be granted time-limited subspecialty certification in MDS.

After passing the MDS Exam, will general dermatology non-time-limited ("lifetime") certificate holders need to participate in continuing certification (MOC)? 
Individuals who hold non-time-limited certificates in dermatology and become certified in MDS will continue to have non-time-limited certification in general dermatology, but will have a time-limited certification in MDS. Maintaining certification in MDS requires participating in continuing certification (MOC) for the subspecialty only; the MOC Exam module in General Dermatology is not required to maintain the MDS certificate.

If I have time-limited certification in General Dermatology, as well as subspecialty certification in MDS, do I have to participate in TWO continuing certification (MOC) programs?
No. Subspecialty continuing certification (MOC) will be linked to the primary certificate’s continuing certification (MOC) in general dermatology.  Credit for CME, Self-Assessment and Practice Improvement will count for both programs. When you take the exam, or participate in the CertLink longitudinal assessment program, you will be required to complete an extra module of MDS test questions, in addition to the standard Surgical Dermatology elective module. Diplomates with time-limited primary certification in Dermatology will also be required to complete the General Dermatology module.

Contact Us

American Board of Dermatology
2 Wells Avenue
Newton, Massachusetts 02459
Office Hours: Mon-Fri,
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(617) 910-6400 (Phone/Fax)

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To serve the public and profession by setting high standards for dermatologists to earn and maintain Board certification.