Specialty Certification

The ABFM has distinguished itself by being the first specialty board to require recertification, now called maintenance of certification, every 7 years, to ensure the ongoing competence of its members.

In the basic requirements for certification and recertification, the ABFM has included continuing education (CE), the foundation on which the American Academy of General Practice had been built when organized in 1947. A diplomate of the ABFM must complete 300 hours of acceptable CE activity every 6 years and one self-assessment module per year over the Internet to be eligible for recertification. Once eligible, a candidate's competence is examined by cognitive testing and a performance in practice evaluation. The ABFM's emphasis on quality of education, knowledge, and performance has facilitated the rapid increase in prestige for the family physician in the U.S. health care system.

The logic of the ABFM's emphasis on continuing education to maintain required knowledge and skills has been adopted by other specialties and state medical societies. All specialty boards are now committed to the concept of recertification to ensure that their diplomates remain current with advances in medicine.

The four components of "maintenance of certification" by the ABFM are professional standing, lifelong learning and self-assessment, cognitive expertise, and practice performance assessment. The ABFM also offers subspecialty certificates called certificates of added qualifications in five areas: adolescent medicine, geriatric medicine, hospice and palliative medicine, sleep medicine, and sports medicine. Combined residency programs are available at some institutions combining family medicine and emergency medicine or psychiatry. The combined residency makes candidates available for certification by both specialty boards with 1 year less of training than that required for two separate residencies, through appropriate overlap of training requirements.

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