Recently there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), and its board certification requirements. Currently, the board require physicians to take an exam and recertify every ten years in a process termed MOC, or maintenance of certification. The process is time-consuming and costly, and many physicians claim it does not improve their day-to-day practice. Doctors have become more vocal in their grievances with the organization, and its possible misuse of funds.
Despite all these criticisms, many physicians continue to comply with the process; not just internists, but in many other specialties, including psychiatry. At a conference I recently attended, there was a booth set up by ABPN, the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. The representative was there to answer questions for psychiatrists about board certification. I learned that their requirements have changed and that in 2020, when I would be up for recertification, I had new requirements to fulfill. The requirements included performing activities comprised of continuing medical education, self-assessment, improvement in medical practice, and patient safety activities. When I asked about the cost, the representative brightly told me that some of the modules “likely” have a cost associated with them. She did not mention the cost of the actual exam.
Mind you, I am board certified in another specialty: addiction medicine. Since I took the exam in 2012, in order to maintain my board-certification, I have to pay the board $400 every year. This is in addition to the educational requirements I have to complete.
I mention all this not as a complaint, but rather because I’d like to offer another point of view. Though some physicians could care less about diploma and the board certification it represents, it means a great deal to me. The day I found out I passed the boards (and I was one of the last classes that had to undergo an oral exam), I was ecstatic. I felt that my hard work had paid off and that this piece of paper was tangible evidence of my journey. It meant more to me than my residency graduation.
Not only did the exam feel like a milestone, but I felt that the work and effort I put into studying for it was actually useful. The field of psychiatry is constantly changing, and I know that when it comes time to recertify, unless there is a viable alternative, I most likely will.
However, I feel that the money that goes into my educational requirements, the board review course I will take (not required but something I find useful), and the cost of the exam itself, will be money well spent. I will study the topics covered by the exam, and I will appreciate the knowledge that I will acquire.
And yes, I will hang up my new diploma.
Christina Girgis is a psychiatrist who blogs at getaheadwithdrg.