ABAM Reflects Growth of Addiction Medicine

The American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) is continuing its efforts to secure the recognition of the subspecialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). These efforts are paying off as an increasing number of physicians are pursuing educational options and practice paths to ABAM certification, and medical schools and other institutions are adding addiction medicine fellowships.

To learn more about ABAM during the ASAM Annual Conference, plan to attend any of the ABAM-related events that will be presented Friday, as well as the Awards Luncheon on Saturday.

ABAM recently announced that the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM) has begun the formal process to bring addiction medicine into the ABMS as a subspecialty available to diplomates of all ABMS boards, said Kevin Kunz, MD, ABAM Executive Vice President. With the backing of ASAM, ABAM was established as an independent medical board in 2007 with a goal of ABMS recognition.

“In February, ABPM sent the required Letter of Intent to ABMS beginning the rigorous application and review process that will take approximately 18 months. There are many details to be worked out, and much work to be done. Although this process is the responsibility of ABPM as the sponsoring board, ABAM will encourage and support the vital undertaking,” he said.

ABAM has certified 3,363 physicians with the recent addition of 650 ABAM Diplomates who passed the 2014 ABAM certification exam. Many of the new diplomates will be recognized at the ASAM Annual Awards Luncheon Saturday. Kenneth Warren, PhD, Deputy Director National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism will award certificates to diplomates at the recognition ceremony.

The ABAM certification exam was a biennial event, but has become an annual event beginning this year because of the growing number of physicians seeking certification. The exam will be given October 17 and 19, and the regular application deadline is April 30.

“The exam has been buffed up,” Dr. Kunz said. “It has been reviewed for clinical relevance, and the exam writers are from multiple disciplines. People who take the test say it is challenging, but a good experience, that it has brought them up to date and caused them to focus their studying, and that it gives them knowledge that makes them capable of better caring for their patients.”

“All About ABAM Certification and the Exam” will be presented from 1 to 1:45 pm Friday in Room 410, Fourth Floor. A course to help prepare for the exam, The ASAM Review Course in Addiction Medicine, will be presented July 30-August 1 in Orlando.

ABAM also offers a Maintenance of Certification program, required by all medical boards to ensure lifelong competency for addiction medicine specialists.

The growth of interest in addiction medicine as a subspecialty also can be seen in the increase in accredited fellowship programs at medical schools. Eight programs were added in 2014, for a total of 27 programs, and another 10 are now in development.

“Many institutions are interested in this, and most are driven by a local champion, often an ABAM Diplomate who wants to bring the training of other physicians into reality. Our goal is to have 65 accredited fellowships by 2020,” Dr. Kunz said.

The growth in the specialty is being driven by, among other reasons, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act, which are bringing medical care to more people who need treatment for substance abuse and alcohol misuse, he said.

“There is a realization in society that this is a disease that negatively impacts families, work productivity, and social relationships,” Dr. Kunz said. “There is hardly a family that does not understand to some degree the consequences of this disease. Physicians and society are increasingly accepting the reality that evidenced-based prevention and treatment are now available. We need more physicians to bring the science into practice.

“The family of medicine has realized that it is ready to do something about this. Addiction medicine—ABAM and ASAM—are the voice within medicine helping to say it is time to get on with promoting the incorporation of prevention and treatment of addiction into routine medical care. It is a good time for this field.”

Anyone interested in learning more about ABAM can stop by the ABAM Booth (#100) in the Exhibit Hall to sign up for the ABAM newsletter and ABAM eblasts.