• Vol. 36 No. 11, 894–897
  • 15 November 2007

Recertification in Internal Medicine – The American Experience

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ABSTRACT

The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) sets standards and certifies and recertifies physicians to practise internal medicine and its subspecialties in America. The ABIM was established in 1936 as a non-profit corporation, one of many specialty boards, such as the American Board of Family Medicine, the American Board of Pediatrics, the American Board of Surgery, etc. The umbrella organisation for these groups is the American Board of Medical Specialties. Members of the American College of Physicians take certifying and recertifying examinations produced by ABIM. Beginning in 1990, ABIM certificates were valid for 10 years. To maintain certification, physicians were required to participate in ABIM maintenance of certification (MOC) programme. The goals are to improve quality of care, to set standards for clinical competency, to foster continuing scholarship, and lead to medical quality improvement. The MOC programme involves verification of credentials, completion of self-evaluation, and completion of a secure exam. The self-evaluation component is the most complex and has been the most controversial due to the diversity of internal medicine careers and continued learning patterns. ABIM continually introduces new options for evaluation of practice performance. In addition to recertification in General Internal Medicine, ABIM has subspecialty examinations. MOC has been well received by professional organisations, but there are areas of controversy. It has been accepted as an important way for internists to assure quality of practice and currency of medical information.


Internal medicine became recognised as a medical specialty in the United States of America (US) with the founding of the American College of Physicians (ACP) in 1915. A group of about 15 self-selected physicians gathered in New York City for this initial meeting. The ACP was modelled after the Royal Colleges of Physicians of London, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The ACP has grown to have now 124,000 members, including Masters, Fellows, Members, Associates, and student members in the US and abroad. There are 6300 international Masters, Fellows and Members. From its modest beginnings, the ACP has always emphasised scholarship, professionalism, and duty to patients and society.

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