In their paper, O'Day and Ladden published the sentinel characteristics and principles embodied in the American Board of Ophthalmology (the "first" specialty board), the American Board of Medical Specialties, and its Member Boards:
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Today, many of these founding characteristics and principles have been cast aside long ago, specifically, (1) the "Board does not determine the ability to practice" and (2) "Board directors serve without compensation", and (3) "Certification is voluntary."
Clearly, the original creators of specialty boards recognized the potential for conflicts of interest to arise when non-clinical physicians earned handsome incomes regulating their peers and worked to limit such conflicts. This is clearly not the case with the ABMS today.
As history reminds us, board certification was once performed to assure the proper education of specialty physicians, not to assure a money stream to the boards. "Re-certification," it seems, is little more than a means to subsidize the overpaid leadership of the ABMS and its member boards.
P.S. Be sure to listen to Paul Tierstein, MD's NPR interview that aired yesterday for more on the origins of the NBPAS.
History of the ABMS. ABMS.org website. Archived Jan 31, 1998. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/19980131095657/http://www.abms.org/history.html