It took just one reference from ABIM's MOC® references to do so.
The very first reference currently cited on ABIM's MOC® reference webpage is this one:
Heitlinger LA. Do maintenance of certification activities promote positive changes in clinical practice? J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2016; 64(5): 655.The article, submitted Nov 23, 2016 and quickly approved by 2 December, 2016, claims "The author reports no conflicts of interest."
If there's no conflict disclosed, why keep looking for one?
Because in my experience, ABIM's MOC®-supporting references rarely, if ever, disclose their true conflicts of interest. Since MOC® is always about the money, we must follow the money to determine Dr. Heitlinger's conflicts of interest.
As expected, I didn't have to look very far.
Dr. Heitlinger's review of Sheu et al's article entitled "Outcomes From Pediatric Gastroenterology Maintenance of Certification Using Web-based Modules" (that appeared in the same issue of the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition) claimed:
"The study demonstrates that at least for the period of observation that patient care is improved by participation of the diplomates enrolled in the activity."What was the activity? A chart review and data collection. How patient care is actually improved by these activities remains suspect.
More important is what Dr. Heitlinger failed to mention in his conflict disclosure:
- The Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition is owned by NASPGHAN and its Foundation
- Dr. Heitlinger and Dr. Bousvaros (one of the co-authors of the Sheu et al article) serve on NASPGHAN Foundation's Board of Directors
- Sheu et al's study was completely "sponsored and developed by the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) subspecialty field-specific quality improvement (QI) activities to provide Part IV Maintenance of Certification (MOC) credit for ongoing certification of pediatric gaastroenterologists by the American Board of Pediatrics."
- Of the 134 participating gastroenterologists in Sheu et al's study, "most (94%) were NASPHGAN members."
According to their website:
"The optimal way to advance your career is to become an active member of NASPGHAN. Membership in the society is comprised of pediatric gastroenterologists, research scientists, and physician nutritionists with a major and sustained interest in the area of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition.One only has to look at the NASPHGAN Foundation to understand why membership with NASPGHAN is so important to academic medical centers.
What is the NASPHGAN Foundation?
It is a tax-exempt "non-profit" 501(c)(3) organization endowed by pharmaceutical and medical device industry "partners" that distributes its educational and fellowship grants to academic medical center researchers.
MOC® and its myriad of Part IV "Quality Improvement" (QI) projects appears to be one way academic physicians can pad their CVs in the name of keeping the pharmaceutical and medical device industry funds flowing to their academic medical centers.
Nothing to see here folks.
I hope this post helps educate my readers how to uncover academic conflicts of interest that exist in many journals beholden to the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.
And when it comes to MOC® improving patient outcomes through QI projects, caveat emptor.
NASPGHAN's 2015 Annual Report
NASPGHAN Foundation's 2014 Form 990.