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Journal of ASPR - Summer 2012 - ABMS Sets Time Limits for Becoming Board Certified
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ABMS Sets Time Limits for Becoming Board Certified

Defines When Physicians Are “Board Eligible”

May 30, 2012 — Limits to the number of years that can elapse between a physician’s completion of residency training and achievement of Board Certification have been established by American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and its Member Boards.

Although ABMS and its Member Boards have never recognized or defined the term “Board Eligible,” physicians often use the term to signal to patients, prospective employers and others that they intend to become Board Certified. A new policy approved by the ABMS Board of Directors that went into effect Jan. 1, 2012, makes it legitimate to claim Board Eligibility during a specified time, but prevents abuse by those who use the designation indefinitely. Under the plan, Member Boards will establish and implement a transition plan for candidates who have completed residency training but not yet achieved initial certification as of the effective policy date. As of Jan. 1, 2019, the transition period is complete and the policy is in full effect applicable to all candidates for certification by the Member Board.

“ABMS and its Member Boards believe very strongly that patients, health systems and others who have a stake in high quality healthcare have a right to know what it means when physicians call themselves Board Eligible,” said Lloyd B. Morgan, ABMS interim chief executive. “It is a disservice to these stakeholders to allow physicians to use the designation indefinitely without undergoing the rigorous process of Board Certification.”

A physician who does not become Board Certified within the allotted time must restart the process according to the requirements of the Medical Board that oversees Certification in his or her specialty. Physicians also will face sanctions if they designate themselves as “Board Eligible” beyond the established time limits.

Unlike medical licensure, Board Certification is voluntary. As part of the process, physicians also must commit to participation in the ABMS Maintenance of Certification® (ABMS MOC®) program, which promotes lifelong learning and self-assessment for physician specialists.

The 24 member boards that comprise the ABMS Board Enterprise and certify nearly 800,000 US physicians include the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, American Board of Anesthesiology, American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery, American Board of Dermatology, American Board of Emergency Medicine, American Board of Family Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine, American Board of Medical Genetics, American Board of Neurological Surgery, American Board of Nuclear Medicine, American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Board of Ophthalmology, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, American Board of Otolaryngology, American Board of Pathology, American Board of Pediatrics, American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Board of Plastic Surgery, American Board of Preventive Medicine, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, American Board of Radiology, American Board of Surgery, American Board of Thoracic Surgery and American Board of Urology.

For more than 75 years, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has been the medical organization overseeing physician certification in the United States. It assists its member boards in their efforts to develop and implement educational and professional standards for the evaluation and certification of physician specialists. ABMS Member Boards provide physician certification information to ABMS for its certification verification service programs. ABMS is recognized by the key healthcare credentialing accreditation entities as a primary equivalent source of Board Certification data for medical specialists. For more information about ABMS, visit or call (312) 436-2600.


Journal of ASPR - Summer 2012