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FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Appendix: A. American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Definitions

The following definitions are taken from the Amended and Restated Corporate Bylaws of the American Board of Medical Specialties (Adopted March 15, 2006; Revised March 19, 2007), or from the “Twelfth Revision of the Essentials for Approval of Examining Boards in Medical Specialties.” (Approved by the ABMS® September 2005. Approved by the AMA/CME August 2005. Approved by the House of Delegates of the AMA November 2005. Effective Date: November 8, 2005).

Purpose of Certification

The intent of both the initial certification of physicians and the transitional maintenance of certification is to provide assurance to the public that a physician specialist certified by a Member Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has successfully completed an approved educational program and evaluation process which includes components designed to assess the medical knowledge, judgment, professionalism and clinical and communications skills required to provide quality patient care in that specialty. (From the “ABMS Mission”)

General Certification

The first certification awarded by a Member Board to approved candidates who meet requirements for certification in a specialized field of medical practice.

Subspecialty Certification

Subspecialty Certification is conferred by one or more Member Boards in a component of a specialty or subspecialty. Subspecialty Certification is authorized to be conferred only to certified medical specialists who have been certified by one or more Member Board(s) in an area of General Certification.

Recertification

The recognition by a Primary or Conjoint Board of the continuing qualification of a diplomate.

Transitional Maintenance of Certification

The recognition by a Primary or Conjoint Board of a diplomate‟s satisfaction of the requirements of its Transitional Maintenance of Certification program.

Medical Specialty

A defined area of medical practice which connotes special knowledge and ability resulting from specialized effort and training in the specialty field.

Medical Subspecialty

An identifiable component of a specialty to which a practicing physician may devote a significant proportion of time. Practice in the subspecialty follows special educational experience in addition to that required for general certification. Two different subspecialty fields may include two or more similar subspecialty areas. In these cases the indentified subspecialty area might use the same title and even equivalent standards.

CAQ, CSQ

These terms are designations of ABMS Member Boards. The ABMS Bylaws read: “Member Boards, at their option, may continue to designate existing subspecialty certificates as ‘Added Qualifications’ and ‘Special Qualifications’ as authorized by the ABMS prior to 1996. At its discretion, Member Boards, for purposes internal to the board, may continue to use the terms Certificates of Added Qualifications (CAQ) and Certificates of Special Qualifications (CSQ).”

Primary Board

A separately incorporated, financially independent body which determines its own requirements and policies for certification, elects its members in accordance with the procedures stipulated in its own bylaws, accepts its candidates for certification from persons who fulfill its stated requirements, administers examinations, and issues certificates to those who voluntarily take and pass its examination.

Conjoint Board

A body established under the joint sponsorship of not less than two Primary Boards, although national specialty organizations may be included as sponsors. Its purpose is to set training standards and evaluate competence of individual candidates in an area of specialty practice common to the sponsoring groups. It resembles a Primary Board in that it is separately incorporated and has similar responsibility for determination of requirements for certification, accepting candidates for certification, administering examinations, and issuing certificates. It differs from a Primary Board in that it is established and functions under the joint sponsorship of not less than two Primary Boards. Its members are appointed by some or all of the respective sponsors and approved by the sponsoring Primary Boards, its policies are determined in conformity with the policies jointly established by the sponsoring boards, and it may or may not be financially independent. Applicants for certification must complete satisfactorily a preliminary training program acceptable to at least one of the sponsoring boards and to the Conjoint Board in order to be considered for examination by the Conjoint Board.

(The American Board of Allergy and Immunology is the only current Conjoint Board of The American Board of Internal Medicine, The American Board of Pediatrics.)

Primary Medical Specialty Board Eligible for LCSB Review

A medical specialty board must be a separately incorporated, financially independent body which determines its requirements and policies for certification, selects the members of its governing body in accordance with the procedures stipulated in its bylaws, accepts its candidates for certification from persons who fulfill its stated requirements, administers examinations, and issues certificates to those who submit to and pass its evaluations.

Liaison Committee for Specialty Boards (LCSB)

The LCSB operates under the authority of the ABMS and the AMA. The LCSB consists of the Chair, the Vice Chair, the Secretary-Treasurer and one member appointed by the Chair from the Board to serve for a term or one (1) year and eligible to be reappointed for one (1) additional term. The chair of the AMA Council on Medical Education shall be the permanent chair of the LCSB.

A function (among others) of the LCSB is to receive and evaluate applications for approval of new medical specialty boards according to the current version of Essentials for Approval of Examining Boards in Medical Specialties which was originally based on recommendations of the ABMS Committee on Standards and Examinations and was approved by the AMA House of Delegates in June, 1934. The present version of the Essentials is a joint document approved by both organizations. It embodies the policies of both the ABMS and the AMA pertaining to specialty boards, while retaining each organization‟s privilege of independent consideration and action. The Essentials describe the standards and procedures by which applications for approval of new medical specialty boards are evaluated.

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ABAM offers a Transitional Maintenance of Certification program for its current diplomates and a public listing of physicians who hold active ABAM certification status. In March, 2016 the American Board of Medical Specialties formally recognized addiction medicine as a multi-specialty subspecialty. Future certification examinations in addiction medicine will be administered by the American Board of Preventive Medicine.