FABNO: Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology
Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO
February 3, 2008

You may have noticed that I’ve started randomly adding the initials “FABNO” after my name. It is a new habit and I still often forget. FABNO is the designation for ‘Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology.’

Our long time readers may recall that in the summer of 2006, I was elected to the board of directors of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP). Part of this association’s mission is to establish the credibility of naturopathic doctors who specialize in naturopathic oncology. To do this, OncANP developed criteria by which naturopathic physicians could be board certified as naturopathic oncologists.

It was assumed that as a member of the board, I would support this initiative and work toward gaining these qualifications myself.

Many of the founding members of this group were, or are still, working for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and the goal was to set a standard of experience, training and knowledge for naturopathic doctors that other hospitals and clinics could look to when hiring naturopathic doctors.

Board member or not, I had to wonder what I was getting in to. The other doctors aspiring to this certification were working in oncology residencies where they received in-house training and education. They were young, smart, and at the top of their classes. My knowledge of biology was acquired not too long after DNA was discovered. The things these young punks had learned in college biology….. well much of it was new to me.

I had my alarm clock, my computer and several yellow highlighters. I filled notebook after notebook of studies to read. The alarm clock was stuck at an unholy early setting. it’s one thing to watch the sunrise in January and quite another thing to see it daily in June. I wore out highlighters. I wore out my dear family at times as well.

Creating this certification was no easy chore either. Eligibility criteria were established, a board of examiners established, and finally a test developed. What I could see from the outside not privy to many of the meetings as an ‘applicant,’ made me realize that I had the easy chore.

The establishment of a legitimate certification process is a specific and in-depth process. First, the association established the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (ABNO) as the certification body; second, ABNO established a Board of Medical Examiners (BOMEx). Each group was functionally independent of the others. Every step there were guidelines to be followed. ABNO established criteria for board certification inclusive of practice hours, naturopathic oncology practice hours, and case submissions, teaching, residency or published research.

As much as I respect my colleagues who were devoting their time to make this happen, trust me, inside I was still silently begging them to ‘make it easy…. I’m just an old guy with a leaky memory.’

At first I was organized with my notebooks, even printing out numbered cover sheets for each one. After I had half a dozen piled up, I got lazy and neglected to number them. At one point Dr. Bloom reminds me that I threw a hissy fit because someone had highlighted key points in one of my notebooks, that is until I realized I had already read through those studies but recalled nothing.

While I was trying to stay awake studying, our colleagues were busy.

ABNO-BOMEx, with the assistance of a professional test-development company named Comira, developed a psychometrically valid board certification specialty exam. This complemented the ABNO-BOMEx quality control for the entire certification process. The test-development consultant was supplied with an extensive list of doctors from within our profession who are skilled in naturopathic oncology. The testing company solicited this group for test questions. The examination development process included the development of a blueprint of examination topics and references.

The first certification test was administered in November 2007 just after Thanksgiving.

Comira, the testing company, often administers tests to pilots and the local testing facility is out at the little airport on the way to Boulder. Some hangar where people take flying lessons.

When I showed up for my scheduled appointment, they sat me in a room with a computer connected to their main national office. They watched me on a closed circuit TV. One hundred questions. When I was done they told me if I passed, I could rent a plane from them.

It was a dreadful experience.

It took me a few days to understand why. In practice, working with patients, I rarely leave with unanswered questions. If I don’t know the answer, I pause to look it up. If the answer isn’t readily available, I stall making a decision if the answer might change it.

There were some really good questions on the test. The sort where one scratches one’s head and thinks, “Now that’s interesting, I wonder what the answer is.” To have to move on to the next question, without first finding the correct answer was so at odds with my normal routine, that it began to feel like a physical strain to sit there and not pop the computer onto PubMed or even Google. Of course by the time it was all over, who can remember any of the questions to look them up?

I surprised myself and all those around me by studying diligently for this exam month after month after month. Many of the newsletters you have seen in the past year were inspired by my various reading topics. I apologize for being so dreadfully fixated.

It took a month for the tests to be scored. The testing company had to play all sorts of statistical games with the results, a group of experts had to confirm the answers, ‘cut scores’ were determined. It was an anxious time waiting to hear. I didn’t realize how much so until I experienced the wave of relief on being told I had passed. It was palpable. A pure and simple, “I’m glad that’s over with and I can get on with my life.”

Having successfully passed the test and all the other requirements, I am now one of just twenty naturopathic doctors granted this FABNO designation. So expect to see it more and more as I get into the habit.

Typically when a person raises their professional qualifications, one gets to ask their employer for a salary increase. This has provided good comedy at our clinic.

All I need do is mention my upcoming raise to Dr. Bloom and everyone laughs.

You can view the list of all naturopathic doctors who have achieved this FABNO status at:


including me,

Jacob Schor ND, FABNO