"Dr. Fisher, is it true that I have to pay ABIM $155 to maintain my certification even though I passed my boards? And do I have to do this for life? I went to the ABIM website and it really isn't clear what we have to do."
I explained the ABIM's current iteration of fees and testing as best I could in the brief time we crossed paths. The ever-shifting sands of the ABIM parsed fee and "point" structures, "discounts," programs, credits, and value of participating (or not) in Maintenance of Certification have lead, I believe intentionally, to the current chaotic state of US physician Board certification. I felt sorry for him but was not surprised he was confused, especially since explaining the board process was equally difficult. I sensed he knew that speaking candidly about his concerns with others in positions of leadership might compromise his reputation as a hard-working, reliable cardiology trainee and was grateful he felt he could approach me with his concerns.
This is what US physician board certification has become: little more than a shakedown of our best and brightest to fund a bloated bureaucratic credentialing system that adds little to no value to our trainees' learning experience. After our conversation, I grabbed a salad and returned to do my pre-operative checklist for my next patient. My phone received a text message: