Some of us were shooting spitballs in class in 1963, more interested in the political machinations of the playground than we were with those affecting our future professions. But for those of us trying to understand now how the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) have run so far afield of representing the average working physician in America today, that is the time in history we have to return to.
It turns out ABIM popped its cherry with Big Tobacco in 1963. Before then, its aims were more educational and helped to serve the public interest, that is until it climbed into bed with the likes of RJ Reynolds and Phillip Morris.
This morning, I woke to an anonymous blog contributor who offered the story of Dr. Thomas Brem, former Chair of the ABIM and President of the "Advisory Board of Medical Specialties" (our current ABMS) stumping for Big Tobacco. Included in the link is Dr. Brem's curriculum vitae. Turns out, Dr. Brem heard the siren song of stumping for profit-making companies on the basis that the "rate of increase" of cancer incidence that declined year after year despite mounds of evidence that the total incidence of lung cancer was increasing annually since the introduction of cigarette smoking.
So when it seems shocking that the ABIM got this far purchasing condos, lobbying Congress and filing false tax forms while hiding tax dollars, we should realize that the corruption in ABIM and the ABMS has been more than 50 years in the making.
But it's not how specialty boards started.
And it certainly is not how we have to continue.