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Subspecialty Thesis, Case List De-Identification, & Approved Abbreviations

A thesis is required by all subspecialties and must be submitted by the date listed in the bulletin and according to the guidelines for preparation listed below. The Division will review the thesis and determine acceptability. Prior publication of a thesis by a refereed journal does not guarantee acceptance of the thesis for the Certifying Examination. It is not necessary for the thesis to have been published.
A copy of the completed Thesis Affidavit Form in PDF format must be uploaded on the candidate's ABOG portal.



Subspecialty Thesis Preparation Instructions

  • Format: The format of the thesis must comply by the instructions for authors for a major peer-reviewed journal in a field related to the subspecialty except as noted below. The name of the journal must be identified clearly on the cover page of the manuscript. Theses that are not in the proper journal format will be rejected.

    The cover page of the thesis should show only the:
  • thesis title
  • name of the candidate
  • hypothesis (or purpose for studies not testing a hypothesis)
  • name of the journal format

Electronic copies or reprints of published manuscripts are acceptable.

Some journals require a "Summary" in addition to the "Discussion" section.

  • Hypothesis or Purpose: The thesis must clearly state the hypothesis to be tested in the form of a simple declarative sentence. The hypothesis must be included on the cover page and in the body of the paper, not just in the Abstract.

    Whenever possible, the hypothesis should include a statement such as, “Our hypothesis is that XXX is significantly different from YYY.” It may be useful to follow PICOT criteria (population, intervention [for intervention studies], comparison group, outcome of interest, and time) in composing the hypothesis. Conversely, the null hypothesis may be stated.

    If the research does not involve hypothesis testing, the thesis must clearly state a purpose in the form of a simple declarative sentence. The purpose statement should convey the goal or overall aim of inquiry. The purpose must be included on the cover page and in the body of document, not just in the Abstract.

  • Authorship:    The cover page should only list the title of the thesis, the candidate’s name (without any coauthors), the hypothesis or purpose, and the name of the journal format.  Acknowledgements are not allowed.

  • Subject Matter: The subject matter must clearly relate to the area of the subspecialty and be important to the field.

  • Research: The thesis must be based on clinical or laboratory research performed during the fellowship period. A review of work performed by others is not acceptable.

  • IRB Approval: All research involving humans and animals must be reviewed and approved by the human or animal institutional review boards (IRBs) of the sponsoring institution. If the research is exempt from IRB approval, a statement from the IRB to that effect must be included with the thesis.
  • Unacceptable Papers: The following are not acceptable for a Fellow's thesis:
  • Book chapters
  • Case reports
  • Case series

  • Potentially Acceptable Theses: Any thesis submitted must be the product of a significantly thoughtful and robust research effort and will be reviewed by the subspecialty division for acceptability. Reports of the results of treatment of patients from a practice or department are not acceptable as these are considered to be a case series.

    The research must be important to the field of the subspeciality. The following types of research conducted during a fellowship may qualify as an acceptable thesis for examination for certification:
  • Laboratory, Translational, and Animal research.
  • Randomized Controlled Trial: The study must adhere to the CONSORT standards.
  • Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review: The report must adhere to the PRISMA or MOOSE guidelines.
  • Cost-Effective Analysis: The report must conform to the recommendations of the Second Panel on Cost-Effectiveness in Health and Medicine for reporting CEA results.
  • Case-Control Study: The study must conform to the STROBE guidelines for observational studies.
  • Cohort Study: The research may involve primary or secondary data analyses. The study must conform to the STROBE guidelines for observational studies.
  • Survey Research: The candidate must have developed the questionnaire or used a previously validated questionnaire, and there should be a 50% return and completion of the questionnaire. The thesis must conform to the STROBE guidelines for observational studies and CHERRIES guidelines for Web-based surveys.
  • Epidemiology Research: The study must conform to the STROBE guidelines for Epidemiological Studies.
  • Mechanistic Trials: The study must meet the NIH definition for a clinical trial.
  • Modeling and Simulation-Based Research: A prediction model thesis must follow the TRIPOD statement. An SBR thesis must adhere to the SBR extension to the CONSORT and STROBE statements.
  • Quality Improvement: The thesis must adhere to the SQUIRE 2.0 guidelines.
  • Qualitative Research: The thesis must adhere to the COREQ or SRQR guidelines.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Research: The thesis must adhere to the SPIRIT-AI Extension or the CONSORT-AI Extension statements.
  • Implementation Science: The thesis must conform to the StaRI guidelines.


Pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the Secretary of the DHHS issued a Final Privacy Rule (HIPAA Privacy Rule) governing the terms and conditions by which health care providers can make available individually identifiable health information.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule permits the release of patient information if the information does not permit the patient to be individually identified. Therefore, you must exclude from the case lists submitted to ABOG such information as could permit the identification of an individual patient.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule specifically enumerates the categories of information which must be removed from patient case lists in order for such case lists to be de-identified and thereby become available for submission.

Section 164.514(b) of the Privacy Rule provides that you may determine that health information is not individually identifiable health information only if the following identifiers are removed:

  1. Names
  2. Geographic subdivisions smaller than a state
  3. Date of birth, admission date, discharge date, date of death, and all ages over 89 except that such ages and elements may be aggregated into a single category of age 90 or older
  4. Telephone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, medical record numbers, health plan beneficiary numbers, account numbers, certificate and/or license numbers
  5. Biometric identifiers, including finger and voice prints
  6. Full face photographic images and any comparable images
  7. Any other unique identifying number, characteristic, or codes.

The de-identification of patient case lists does not allow the omission of any cases involving patients under your care that are otherwise required to be reported. Any effort to use the HIPAA rule to avoid listing patients will disqualify you from the examination and result in additional disciplinary action as appropriate. The completeness of your case list is subject to audit by ABOG.

Following is a list of approved abbreviations for use in case list preparation.


View the bulletin for more information on case lists and approved abbreviations.