Certification Process Expanding for New, Existing Physicians

During Saturday’s ASAM Awards Luncheon, new addiction medicine diplomates were recognized for recently completing the challenging process in which 535 newly certified physicians joined the field. A session today will explain that process, which record numbers of applicants are navigating annually.

“The session will go through the basics of planning for the 2014 exam,” said Kevin Kunz, MD, MPH, FASAM, Executive Vice President of the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) one of the program presenters. “We will review the eligibility criteria and a list of study materials, and talk about the documents on which the exam is based. We will talk about the basics of addiction medicine, scope of practice, and the core content.”

Component Session 8, “ABAM Certification and Preparation for the Cognitive Examination,” will be presented from 10:15 am to 12:15 pm today in the Waldorf Room on the third floor of the Hilton Chicago.

More physicians are taking the exam each year to earn ABAM certification. In 2012, 920 people applied to take the exam and 832 sat for the exam. From that group came the 535 new diplomates as well as 156 physicians who were recertified.

Those growing numbers of applicants and diplomates reflect the growth of addiction medicine, which also will be discussed in the session. That growth has led to the development of 18 fellowships in addiction medicine, and it is anticipated that 50 fellowships will be available by 2020, Dr. Kunz said. The connection of the exam to the fellowships and maintenance of certification is essential, and will be reviewed in the session today.

“In the session, we will also talk about the basics of the fellowships, the support they receive, and the experiences from several of those fellowships,” he said. “These first 18 fellowships are wonderful models, so we will cover the experiences of how to put one together and what is necessary to have one accredited. “We also will talk about the necessity of fellowships and their role in training, the certification exam, and maintenance of certification (MOC). As we enter the family of medicine, these residencies are very important because they help to define, promote, and advance the field.”

Dr. Kunz said that some institutions are already training addiction medicine physicians, but have not had their training accredited. Attending the session will show them the importance of accreditation.

“Upgrading and accrediting a training program can make a big difference for everybody and bring them into this network of support,” he said of the cooperation between ABAM and ASAM.

In addition, an MOC program for addiction medicine has been developed and an ABAM website to help physicians track their progress to earning maintenance of certification will be launched in the next few weeks.

“This is significant because maintenance of certification is relatively new to addiction medicine physicians,” Dr. Kunz said. “ABAM is an independent board, and as we join the family of medicine, MOC is something we all must do. We want to be a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), and this is part of the process. Most physicians are familiar with the MOC they must get for their primary board.”

The addiction medicine MOC process is similar to the process for other specialties. It has four parts, including earning 26 education credits every two years and taking an MOC exam every 10 years. The new MOC website will help physicians track those credits and the other parts of MOC, including credentialing and practice improvement. This was discussed Thursday in Component Session 3, “Maintenance of Certification in Addiction Medicine: What it Means for You, and How to Use Your Computer and the ABAM Diplomate Web Portal to Meet Maintenance of Certification Program Requirements.”

“ABMS expects that by 2020, 95 percent of physicians will have an active MOC program,” Dr. Kunz said. “If you want to be a recognized specialty or subspecialty, it is essential that you have an MOC program.”