ABAM Certifies First 10 Residency Training Programs

The first 10 addiction medicine residency training programs have recently been accredited by the American Board of Addiction Medicine Foundation (ABAM).

The establishment and recognition of accredited physician training in addiction completes the core elements of addiction medicine as a specialized field of medical practice. The residencies build on the groundwork set by ASAM over the last 57 years, and on a broadly accepted, consensus definition of the field of addiction medicine.

The defining documents of the specialty were finalized this year, after a four-year consensus process. These include the ADM Scope of Practice, Core Competencies, Compendium of Educational Objectives, and Program Requirements for postgraduate medical training. These are available on the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) website (www.ABAM.net).

Like certification of individual physicians in addiction medicine, accreditation of these residencies gives assurance to the family of medicine, to health care organizations, and to physicians and the persons they care for, that a standard of excellence has been set, and is a key requirement for addiction medicine residency programs and the physicians who complete a residency.

The accreditations are viewed by the ASAM and ABAM directors as a watershed event, and a milestone for the goal of creating 25-40 certified residency programs, after which time the ABAM Foundation will request from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) acceptance of these programs. The present residencies are modeled after the ACGME criteria in place for the nation’s other, 8,000-plus residencies, but are the very first accredited programs of any type in addiction medicine.

The development of the accreditation process started in 2007 and has its roots  deep in ASAM, said Richard D. Blondell, M.D., a member of the ABAM board. Beginning in 2005, the ASAM leadership and members encouraged and assisted with the start-up of  ABAM as a separate organization.

ASAM was ready to move the field forward, and the next steps, of setting standards and processes that would eventually meet the requirements of ACGME and the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), required a separate organization dedicated to these objectives.

Kevin Kunz, M.D., M.P.H., FASAM, President of ABAM and the ABAM Foundation agreed, saying, “ASAM and its members wanted to take the next steps and to formally join the family of medicine. To do that, the requirement of an independently incorporated board, meeting clear criteria set by ABMS had to be met.

“ASAM and ABAM working together have a critical role today. It is the mutual goal of ASAM physicians and ABAM to advance patient care and the education and training of physicians. Both organizations are driven by those mutual goals, but there are distinct responsibilities.”

ABAM sets standards and certifies expert physicians. The ABAM Foundation has formally defined the field of addiction medicine, and set guidelines and requirements for residency training, Dr. Kunz said. ASAM is the membership organization that promotes patient care and physician education from the position of the practicing clinician, caring for patients, families and communities; educating and supporting physician in all medical specialties, and advocating for appropriate care of all persons affected by addiction.

“The medical field of addiction medicine has come to maturity with these residencies,” Dr. Kunz said. “A new, formally acceptable field of medicine needs to have specific  elements.

“With residencies coming on line, the field of addiction medicine now has these. We now have a core set of documents that describe the field of addiction medicine, a plan to train physicians, residency programs, and a means to accredit programs and certify physicians.”