By Randall K. Roenigk*
These days, who’s not looking for a good deal?
In my opinion, one of the best investments we all make in ourselves and our practice is the $150 fee we pay annually for ABD’s Continuing Certification Program (CCP).
For about the same price as a couple of tanks of gas or a nice dinner with the family, you have access to all the activities you need to continue your certification. And the ABD hasn’t increased the fee, nor has plans to do so, since it was initiated in 2006 -- you certainly can’t say that about a tank of gas!
What has changed are all the benefits we get for our fees.
Your ABD Executive Staff and Board of Directors have a fiduciary responsibility to administer the ABD’s programs to provide maximum value to you and to the public. We are very serious about this role and look for new opportunities that make sense economically and professionally.
Your fees support the certification system, which allows physician specialties to self-regulate. Healthcare systems, government agencies, payors, and patients recognize certification as validation that a physician has met and continues to meet high standards of knowledge and expertise.
Your fees also support continuing certification requirements – there is no longer a need to pay for test preparation courses, testing center fees and associated travel and lodging, CME courses, or practice improvement activities.
That’s the philosophy. Here are the tangibles:
Our fees pay for all continuing certification activities.
- CertLink is one of the newest and most popular activities. This longitudinal assessment and learning tool replaced the high-stakes, high-stress exam many of us took once every 10 years. ABD diplomates no longer pay additional exam fees, testing center charges, travel expenses or prep course costs. CertLink helps us refresh our knowledge and learn about the latest innovations in our field. Through CertLink, we have access to some of the latest and most influential journal articles. We have developed a library of articles used in CertLink, so you have access, even if you don’t have a journal subscription. In addition, completing questions in CertLink also provides both CME and Self-Assessment credit that fulfills continuing certification requirements.
- Continuing Medical Education: The AMA will grant one CME credit per CertLink article-based question scored, up to 12 credits per year. You may also earn CME credits for passing initial certification and subspecialty certification. If you participate in the American Academy of Dermatology's Transcript Program and opt to share your data with the ABD, your table will automatically be updated with the activities and credits from your transcript.
- Self-assessment: These activities support life-long learning as new information and updated best practices emerge. You get self-assessment credits by participating in CertLink. Credits are automatically downloaded to your Continuing Certification table each quarter.
- Access to focused practice improvement activities: Once every 5 years, you must complete a focused practice improvement activity. A list of these activities may be found on the website when you log in to your profile under the My CCP tab. The value of these activities comes in getting dermatologists into the mode of considering more efficient and effective ways to practice and provide better care for our patients. Currently, there are more than 50 focused practice improvement activities, including 23 new ones. There are activities for all areas: cosmetic, dermatopathology, medical, pediatric, and surgical.
- Ways for you to promote your certification status and the expertise and knowledge it represents. Through your individual profile now displayed on ABD’s website, you can provide information for patients including practice focus, website and office addresses, and contact information. You can also create a personalized certification mark to use on your website, stationery, email signature, and business cards. You may now download copies of your ABD certificate, too, so you can display your certificate anywhere you see patients. The ABD website also contains information for patients and the public that explains the certification process and what distinguishes a certified dermatologist from other doctors and health care providers.
The ABD is dedicated to financial transparency. We have the highest (platinum) transparency status with GuideStar/Candid, the world’s leading source of information about nonprofit organizations. GuideStar downloads tax forms (990s) directly from the Internal Revenue Service. Organizations may upload additional information about operations and leadership to earn higher ratings. We promise to continue to maintain the highest level of transparency so you can obtain complete details on how your fees are used. (Note – you must set up an account to log in to GuideStar, but it is completely free and gives you access to all participating nonprofit organizations, allowing you to compare them.)
Here is the type of information you will find in GuideStar, in addition to tax reports.
- Our programs – initial certification in general dermatology and dermatological subspecialties, and continuing certification for diplomates
- Our results – the number of physicians who achieve initial certification each year
- Our goals and strategies
- How we listen
You can also find 990 tax forms through ProPublica, Economic Research Center, or the IRS. The ABD files tax returns annually. However, these reporting organizations often are delayed in releasing them because of the high volume of reports coming in. If you need to see the most recent 990 report from the ABD and are unable to get it from these other sources, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our item writers and Board of Directors all volunteer their time and expertise. Item writing, exam development, standard setting, and all other aspects of exam development take countless hours of volunteer time for which we are all very grateful.
We do have paid staff – five part-time executive staff members who are ABD-certified dermatologists and, like our volunteers, must be practicing dermatologists who participate in continuing certification. They also work with the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to deliver the CertLink platform as well as collaborate with all Member Boards, who certify over 900,000 physicians in the United States, on programs and activities that are important to the self-regulation of specialties in medicine.
We also have eight full-time staff members who support all initial and continuing certification activities. They support program directors and trainees with initial certification preparation and assessments. They work with Pearson VUE exam centers to schedule exams and with psychometricians to score exams. They will also provide personalized service upon request. Please call the office at (617) 910-6400 for assistance with anything related to certification.
The ABD has one in-person meeting of Directors and item writers per year. We meet in Chicago to minimize travel expenses. All other meetings are virtual.
That’s a lot of bang for your buck.
We believe that you value your certification status as much as we value you as a diplomate. Let’s continue to work together to support the certification system and make improvements that support your life-long learning processes and excellent care of your patients.
If you have questions, please contact me at Communications@abderm.org.
*About the Author
Dr. Roenigk is the Executive Director of the American Board of Dermatology. In addition, he is a consultant (full-time faculty) and former chair of the Department of Dermatology and Division of Dermatologic Surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. A professor of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, he also holds the Robert H. Kieckhefer Professorship in Dermatology at the Mayo Foundation.
Learn what benefits you get for $150 a year -- with no increase planned.