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CHICAGO—January 7, 2021—The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and seven individual physicians, who serve as ACGME program directors in internal medicine residency training programs or internal medicine subspecialty fellowships, have filed suit against the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit challenges a policy announced by the ABIM that states program directors will only be permitted to qualify their residents for the ABIM exam if the program director is certified by the ABIM.
“In other words, program directors who are certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine (AOBIM) must either become certified by the ABIM or lose the ability to qualify their residents for ABIM certification,” said Josh Prober, JD, AOA General Counsel and Senior Vice President. “As a result of this policy, internal medicine program directors are being pressured by their hospitals to become ABIM certified or lose their jobs.”
Criteria for service as a program director are set by the ACGME and the individual institution that is home to the residency program. AOBIM-certified DOs are fully qualified to serve as residency program directors within the ACGME accreditation system.
The ABIM’s rule pushes programs to seek ABIM-certified physicians, disenfranchising physicians who are certified by the AOBIM. Further, AOBIM-certified program directors will be forced to seek ABIM certification to fulfill the critical role of qualifying their graduates, DOs and MDs, for board certification. In addition, residents will effectively be directed toward ABIM rather than AOBIM certification because of the competitive disadvantages for AOBIM diplomates created by this rule.
“When an ACGME-qualified program director deems a resident has met the ACGME requirements for program completion and graduation, this is synonymous with attesting to the residency graduate’s qualification for seeking board certification from whichever board they choose,” said AOA CEO Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD. “A program director’s requirements to educate, train and evaluate their residents is defined by the ACGME and their ability to fulfill those duties is confirmed by their employer. Neither is under the purview of a certifying body.”
There is no data suggesting or confirming that AOBIM-certified program directors are less qualified or effective than ABIM-certified program directors. The AOA and individual physicians have asked the court to enter an injunction barring the ABIM from implementing its requirement. The AOA and individual plaintiffs are also asking the court to award compensatory and other available damages for AOA as compensation for the injuries caused by ABIM.
“The only purpose served by the ABIM requirement is to create a competitive advantage for the ABIM,” said Dr. Klauer. “This is harmful to program directors, residents and our graduate medical education system at-large. AOA leadership and our entire Board of Trustees stand united in support of our osteopathic colleagues.”
About the American Osteopathic Association
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 151,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools.
Jessica Bardoulas, AOA Director of Media Relations
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