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Appendix C. American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Requirements For Recognition of a New Specialty

The Following are Sections IV and V of the ABMS’s “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).

Section IV. Criteria for Recommending Approval of New ABMS Certifying Boards

(Note: The titles that appear and are underlined at the beginning of requirements A through F have been added. They do not appear in the ABMS’s “Twelfth Revision.”)

In order to be recommended for approval by the LCSB, a new medical specialty board must demonstrate that all of the following requirements have been satisfied.

  1. Science and Practice: The emergence of a new medical specialty must be based on a substantial advancement in medical science and represent a distinct and well-defined field of medical practice. It may entail special attention to the problems of patients according to age, gender, organ system, or interaction of patients with their environment.
  2. One Board: To promote public and professional understanding that there is a single standard of preparation for and evaluation of expertise in each specialty, only one medical specialty board will be recognized in each specialty.
  3. Distinct Training: The training needed to meet requirements for certification by the applicant must be sufficiently distinct from the training required for certification by approved ABMS Boards and sufficiently complex or extended so that it is not feasible for it to be included in established training programs leading to certification by approved ABMS Boards.
  4. Candidate Capability: A medical specialty board must demonstrate that candidates for certification will acquire, and its diplomates will maintain, capability in a defined area of medicine and demonstrate special knowledge and competencies in that field.
  5. ACGME-Accredited Training; Grandfathering: Evidence must be presented that the new board will establish defined standards for training and that there is a system for evaluation of educational program quality. The required graduate medical education programs must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or a plan must be presented for the interim approval of training programs, under conditions defined by the applicant and in accordance with ABMS requirements for training programs, until ACGME approved training programs are established and functioning. Grandfathering: In addition, a plan must be presented to accommodate the certification of individuals who complete their graduate medical education prior to the establishment of ACGME accredited programs in the specialty defined by the applicant board.
  6. Field Support: The applicant medical specialty board must demonstrate support from the relevant field of medical practice and broad professional support.
  7. Operational Plan: The operational plan submitted to the LCSB must include sufficient detail to allow a judgment to be made in the following areas.
    1. Governance Structure. Demonstrate that the composition of the board provides for representation of appropriate organizations and that board members have sufficient expertise and stature for the effective operation of the board.
    2. Business Plan. The financial support for a valid, objective program of candidate and diplomate evaluation, as well as other necessary activities in graduate education, must be presented. The data should include projected numbers of examinees for initial and continuing certification and projected certification fees.
    3. Content of the Field. Data should be presented on the core content/competencies and scope of practice, based on a detailed analysis of the professional area, including present and future public needs.
    4. Requirements for Certification. A specific plan for development and validation of the requirements for certification, recertification and transitional maintenance of certification should be presented, along with an outline of and rationale for the qualifications to be required of applicants for certification.
    5. Evaluation Plan. A detailed plan for evaluation of individual candidates for initial certification and diplomates for Tmoc should be presented.

“We can pursue one option or another, but in the end,
we should do whatever will save the most lives.”

James W. Smith, M.D., FASAM
MSAG Hazelden Meeting
December 1, 2006

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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.