Board certification

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Board certification stands as a testament to a professional's mastery in their specific area of specialization. In the United States, this certification process is utilized by a range of professionals, from physicians (both MD and DO), dentists (DDS or DMD), optometrists, pharmacists (PharmD), to podiatrists (DPM).

Understanding Board Certification[edit | edit source]

Professionals demonstrate their expertise and command over their domain through various methods, including written tests, practical exams, and simulator-based evaluations. While 24 recognized boards offer certification for medical specialists in the U.S., obtaining certification isn't a legal mandate. However, some institutions, like hospitals, may require professionals to be board certified for privileges[1].

The term board eligible/board certified (BE/BC) implies that a professional either possesses the certification or is eligible to earn it in a specific field.

Certification Across Various Fields[edit | edit source]

Board certification isn't exclusive to the medical sector:

Defining a Medical Specialty[edit | edit source]

The foundation of any medical specialty lies in its core competencies, which encapsulate the crucial knowledge and skills necessary for that field. These competencies undergo rigorous evaluation by experts, and their compilation results in a draft core competency document. Forming the first core competency document is a meticulous process, typically spanning five to ten years, and serves as a precursor to the certification exam.

Certification Examinations[edit | edit source]

The certification process mandates professionals to undergo examinations that assess their grasp over the core competencies. While traditional written exams are common, their scope is limited to basic knowledge assessment. Practical exams, on the other hand, provide a hands-on evaluation. Due to advancements in technology, computer-based testing and animatronic human patient simulator based evaluations are gaining traction.

The certification process for physicians mirrors that for attorneys. For instance, the Texas Board of Legal Specialization uses a mix of essay and multiple-choice questions[5].

Certifying Agencies for Physicians in the U.S.[edit | edit source]

In the United States, the validation and assurance of a physician's expertise in specific medical specialities and subspecialties are often determined through board certification. This process is governed by a select number of agencies responsible for overseeing the stringent requirements, examinations, and continuous educational demands associated with certification. The following provides a deeper understanding of the three principal certifying agencies in the U.S.

1. American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS)[edit | edit source]

  • Overview: The American Board of Medical Specialties is the largest of the certification agencies in the U.S., and is responsible for overseeing the certification of both M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) physicians in a myriad of recognized medical specialties.
  • Background: Founded in 1933, ABMS collaborates with its 24 Member Boards to maintain and enhance the quality of medical care.
  • Specialties Covered: ABMS governs certifications in over 150 medical specialties and subspecialties.
  • Certification Process: Physicians seeking certification through an ABMS Member Board must meet specific educational, training, and professional peer evaluation standards. They are also required to pass both written and, in some cases, oral examinations.
  • Maintenance of Certification: ABMS stresses the importance of lifelong learning. The Maintenance of Certification program ensures that board-certified physicians stay current in their field through continuing education, regular assessments, and quality improvement activities.

2. American Osteopathic Association Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists (AOABOS)[edit | edit source]

  • Overview: AOABOS is specifically dedicated to the certification of D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) physicians.
  • Background: A branch of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), the AOABOS has been certifying osteopathic physicians since 1939.
  • Specialties Covered: The AOABOS, together with AOA, oversees certification in numerous osteopathic specialties.
  • Certification Process: Physicians seeking AOABOS certification must complete osteopathic medical school, postgraduate training, and pass both cognitive and clinical exams.
  • Osteopathic Continuous Certification: Similar to the ABMS's Maintenance of Certification, the AOABOS also promotes lifelong learning and the regular assessment of a D.O. physician's knowledge and skills.

3. American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS)[edit | edit source]

  • Overview: The ABPS is a third major body responsible for the certification of both M.D. and D.O. physicians in the United States.
  • Background: Founded in 1952, the ABPS is recognized for its rigorous certification and recertification processes for physicians in a variety of specialties.
  • Specialties Covered: ABPS offers board certification in a diverse range of medical fields, emphasizing both primary and secondary specialties.
  • Certification Process: The ABPS emphasizes a comprehensive approach to the certification of physicians, ensuring both in-depth knowledge and practical clinical skills. Physicians must fulfill educational and residency requirements, followed by written and/or oral examinations.
  • Continuous Certification: The ABPS believes in continuous professional development, urging physicians to engage in ongoing education, assessments, and peer evaluations to maintain their certification status.
  • Many certification boards mandate periodic reevaluation and recertification, typically ranging between 7 to 10 years.

Specialty Colleges[edit | edit source]

Specialty colleges represent specialist professionals in the medical and legal fields. While physicians generally require board certification to become fellows of a medical specialty college, legal professionals might not have such prerequisites. Historical specialty colleges include the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the American College of Trial Lawyers.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD