ABIM responds to a physician’s letter

(name of physician and ABIM administrator omitted)

Dear Dr.  ?????,

Thank you for your inquiry about the governance of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).  As you may know, ABIM is not a membership society, but a physician-led, non-profit, independent evaluation organization. ABIM diplomates do not pay “membership dues”; the fees paid to ABIM are for participation in our Certification and Maintenance of Certification programs.

However, like most standard-setting organizations, ABIM has its roots in membership organizations.  ABIM was created in 1936 by a joint action of the American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association. The founders intentionally incorporated an independent organization to shield themselves from the pressure of dues-paying members and instead established a governance structure that relies on experts in the field to set standards for the profession in the best interest of the public. In fact “of the profession, for the public” continues to be the touchstone for ABIM governance decision-making. Sometimes tension develops between the standard setters and the members of their antecedent membership organizations. However, a well-functioning certifying board needs to be insulated without being insular, listening carefully to those who seek to meet our standard yet remaining independent and evidence-based in the standards and processes we set.

All of ABIM’s standards, policies, programs and products are developed by internists. ABIM’s governance is composed of distinguished physician experts with records of achievement in diverse health care settings, whom ABIM seeks out through open calls for nominations and outreach via a variety of channels, including professional societies.

The purpose of board certification is to offer a credential that distinguishes in a publicly recognizable way those physicians who have met a standard set by their peers from those who do not or choose not to. ABIM’s accountability is both to the public and to the profession of medicine. All diplomates are encouraged to provide us with feedback to help enhance our policies, products and programs. We regularly solicit diplomate feedback through surveys and focus groups, and many enhancements implemented or in development have been a direct result of diplomate feedback. To further enhance the relevance of our assessments, we have recently convened the Assessment 2020 Task Force, which includes a broad array of experts from both inside and outside the profession of medicine. This task force is directly seeking input from our diplomates and other members of the public about what skills a physician needs now and will need in the future. We encourage internist feedback via the Assessment 2020 website and the Assessment 2020 blog.  

I hope this information helps. If you need further assistance, you may reply to this e-mail or call us at 1-(800)-441-ABIM (2246) Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EST.



Governance Administrator


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