Remember when you were a child and an offer to be a member of a special spy club appeared on your morning cereal box? You knew, yes knew that the offer was the real deal. All you had to do is send in three cereal box tops and you'd be sent all the prerequisite items. Of course, when the plastic trinkets arrived weeks later, there always seemed to be the air of buzzkill when the reality of what you received for your efforts was revealed.
This could never happen with board certification, could it?
Yesterday, we learned that this year, every specialist has to re-certify to maintain their status as a board certified specialist. In the past, this was a voluntary process that doctors participated in to show a jury of their peers that they had the right stuff to practice medicine at the highest level possible. It was a respected term. Doctors generally knew that a board certified specialist meant something. Even though doctors pay thousands of dollars to the American Board of Internal Medicine for the opportunity to study for and take the certification exam, once passed doctors were proud to hang that certificate on their wall. In effect, it is the crowning achievement of one's career.
But what if that certificate on the wall had the value of certificate purchased from a cereal box top spy club? Doctors might be pretty upset, right?
Well guess what. Although the majority of those certificates hanging on the wall are the real deal, many are not.
That's because the term "board certification" is not a legally protected term in most states of the United States, and if you want a "board certificate," you can just purchase one and hang it on your wall. No test, no nothing. Just send a guy several hundred bucks and fill out a very important sounding questionnaire and you're a member of the club!
Now this has been against the law. This has been illegal for many years. But none of this has made much difference - the scams continue. The sad reality is, the government does not have a history of effective oversight of these shiny new "certifying" initiatives.
For long-time readers of this blog, many are aware of my dealings that I stumbled upon by way of an anonymous comment that appeared on this blog several years ago that exposed a certain individual known to be operating such a fraudulent board certification scam. This scam is known by the American Board of Internal Medicine. This scam is known by the Illinois States Attorney's office and the Connecticut States Attorney's Office. But despite knowing about this individual for over nine years and his over thirty specialty "certificates" that he targets to primarily foreign medical graduates, he continues to operate this scam on-line.
Doctors who pay thousands of dollars for legitimate board certification should demand their states protect the term "board certification" to mean what it's supposed to mean: certification by the American Board of Internal Medicine. It must imply that they have taken the steps necessary to demonstrate they are at the top of their specialty. They should also demand from the American Board of Internal Medicine that they get something in return for their significant financial investment that is increasingly mandated by credentialing bodies: protection of the value of their certification.
And that means bringing these scam artists to justice.
Otherwise those certificates will be nothing more than a piece of paper from a cereal box top.