August 19, 2010
Letter to the Editor
5523 Research Park Drive Suite 220
Baltimore, MD 21228
Robert Anthony provides an interesting analysis of the effectiveness and worth of board certification in the article “Is Board Certification Overrated?” (July/August). While Mr. Anthony does a thorough job delving into the background of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), he perpetuates the misguided belief that ABMS boards are the only boards qualified to certify physicians with his omission of certification for osteopathic physicians (DOs).
The American Osteopathic Association’s (AOA) Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists (BOS), which was founded as the Advisory Board for Osteopathic Specialists in 1939, oversees all AOA certification and recertification policies and procedures through its 18 specialty certifying boards and is dedicated to establishing and maintaining high standards for certification of DOs. Recognition by one of these certifying boards means a DO has achieved expertise in a medical specialty or subspecialty by completing specific specialty or subspecialty training, passing a rigorous board examination and meeting other board-specific requirements.
Rather than being a single event, the AOA views certification as a continuous process. That is why the BOS has mandated that each specialty certifying board implement an osteopathic continuous certification process, which will serve as a way for board-certified DOs to maintain current certification and demonstrate competency in their specialty area. All boards will have the osteopathic continuous certification process in place and implemented by Jan.1, 2013. Rather than being a punitive measure, osteopathic continuous certification, along with the ABMS maintenance of certification process and the proposed Federation of State Medical Boards’ maintenance of licensure program, will provide public confidence and more transparency for a physician’s practice.
Although board certification is a voluntary process, many DOs are certified through the member boards of the AOA to demonstrate their commitment to their specialty and to quality care for their patients. Osteopathic physicians who trained in programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education also have the option of being certified through ABMS. In fact, some DOs are certified by both AOA and ABMS boards.
As the debate over whether board certification guarantees better clinical outcomes continues, it is a method by which minimum quality standards are set, and by which the public can be confident that an independent third party has evaluated physicians’ skills and abilities; that physicians conduct their practice according to a professional code of ethics; and that physicians remain current with medical practices and procedures.
Karen J. Nichols, DO
American Osteopathic Association