Core Surgical Procedures

The ABOto and the RRC for Otolaryngology have identified certain procedures that represent basic skills all otolaryngologists should learn during residency. Although not a comprehensive list of procedures performed by otolaryngologists, the skills needed to perform the core procedures can be used to perform other procedures. Residents are evaluated by their faculty and when a resident reaches a level of proficiency with the procedure, the Program Director will indicate this achievement on the resident’s evaluation form on the ABOto website.

Leave of Absence

Leaves of absence and vacation may be granted to residents at the discretion of the Program Director in accordance with local rules. The total of such leaves and vacation may not exceed six weeks in any one year. If a circumstance occurs in which a resident’s absence exceeds the allotted time outlined by the ABOto, the program director must submit a plan to the ABOto for approval on how the necessary training will be achieved, which may require an extension of the residency.

Training Requirements

Training programs in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery in the United States are evaluated by the Residency Review Committee for Otolaryngology (RRC), which consists of representatives from the American Medical Association (AMA), the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the ABOto, and are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Information concerning approved educational programs can be found in the Graduate Medical Education Directory published by the American Medical Association. Individuals who enter otolaryngology-head and neck surgery training on or after July 1, 2005 must satisfactorily complete a minimum of five years of training, as specified below, in an ACGME-approved program(s):

Residency programs must be of five years duration, with at least nine months of basic surgical, emergency medicine, critical care, and anesthesia training within the first year; including at least 48 months of progressive education in the specialty. This training must include a final year of senior experience. This final year must be spent within the accredited program in which the previous year of training was spent, unless prior approval is obtained from the ABOto.

The first year of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery training should include a minimum of five months of structured education in at least three of the following areas: general surgery, thoracic surgery, vascular surgery, plastic surgery, and surgical oncology. In addition, one month of structured education in each of the following four clinical areas: emergency medicine, critical care unit, anesthesia, and neurological surgery. An additional maximum of three months of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery is optional, and any remaining months of the PGY-1 year must be completed in an ACGME approved program, or rotations specifically approved by the RRC.


A resident wishing to transfer from one residency program to another must notify the ABOto in writing at least six weeks prior to the date of transfer, and must explain the circumstances of the proposed transfer.

Letters from the current and prospective directors of training must also be submitted:
  • The letter from the current Program Director must verify the exact amount of training successfully completed in the program and explain the reason for the transfer. A PGY-1 Rotations List must also be submitted.
  • The letter from the prospective Program Director must verify that sufficient residency positions, accredited by the Residency Review Committee for Otolaryngology of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), exist in the program to provide the transferring resident with the training necessary to meet the requirements of the ABOto for certification.
Failure to comply with the transfer requirements may result in loss of eligibility to participate in the ABOto certification process.