Requirements to Take the Certifying Exam

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Responsibilities During Residency
When to Apply
General Qualifications
Residency Training Requirements
Guidelines for Determining Adequacy of Clinical Training

Responsibilities During Residency:

• A Preliminary Registration Form must be filed electronically by the candidate within 30 days of the start of training. Documented verification of the resident’s first post-graduate year must be sent to the Board office as well. 

• A Yearly Evaluation Form for each resident must be submitted electronically by the program director by August 1 after completion of the first and second year of training and by May 15 for residents who will complete their third year of training on June 30.

• Training must be completed within five years after the beginning of dermatology residency, except when military service or other compelling circumstances intervene.

• It is the responsibility of the program director to determine if a resident has satisfactorily completed the required 3 years of dermatology training and is therefore eligible to sit for the certifying examination of the American Board of Dermatology (see Guidelines for Determining Adequacy of Clinical Training).

• The final evaluation must verify that the resident has demonstrated sufficient professional ability to practice competently, ethically and independently.

When to Apply:

• Physicians who complete their residency training in dermatology by July 1 are eligible to apply to take the examination in July of the same year. Under the special conditions described under Guidelines for Determining Adequacy of Clinical Training, candidates completing additional (make-up) training before September 1 may also be eligible to apply to take the certifying examination.

• It is the candidate's responsibility to submit a completed application form online if he or she plans to take the certifying examination of the Board. Requests by candidates for special accommodations for the certifying examination must be received in the Board office by March 1st.

General Qualifications:

• The candidate must have graduated from a medical school in the United States accredited by the Liaison Committee for Medical Education (LCME), an accredited medical school in Canada, an accredited osteopathic school in the United States, or if a graduate of a foreign medical school, must possess the standard certificate of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) . If, however, the foreign medical school graduate is in training in an accredited program in Canada, the Board will recognize the certificate of the Medical Council of Canada.

• The candidate must hold a currently valid, full and unrestricted license to practice medicine or osteopathy in the state or province of his or her residence in either the United States or Canada. The candidate will be allowed to take the examination without submission of an unrestricted license, but will only receive a certificate once the license has been received by the Board office. The candidate may be denied certification if his or her license has been revoked, suspended, restricted, or surrendered in any jurisdiction - or if the candidate is subject to adverse licensure proceedings.

• The candidate must not have engaged in conduct which, in the judgment of the Board, (i) reflects unethical activity relating to the practice of medicine, or (ii) casts significant doubt on the ability of the candidate to practice dermatology in the best interests of patients.

• The candidate’s program director must complete all required documentation attesting to the candidate’s qualifications for certification.

• The candidate must complete ABD competency assessments, which may include essay evaluations, patient experience data, peer experience data, quality improvement project attestations and other ABD-defined criteria.

Residency Training Requirements:

Candidates for certification by the American Board of Dermatology are required to have a total of four years of postgraduate training as described below.

a. The first year (PGY1) must consist of 12 months of clinical training in one of the following types of programs in the United States accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or a similar training program in Canada accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada: a transitional year, or a first year residency in emergency medicine, family medicine, general surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics & gynecology, pediatrics, or preliminary year. Program Directors who anticipate matching a candidate with a PGY-1 year other than those listed above should contact the American Board of Dermatology to inquire about the possibility of an exception. Exceptions may be granted after review of the individual’s PGY-1 training schedule. Any application for exception must be made by the program director, and formal approval by the ABD must be received before the candidate can be accepted into a dermatology residency program.

b. Three years of full-time training as a resident in a dermatology residency training program in the United States accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or three years of full-time training as a resident in a dermatology residency training program in Canada accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Accreditation of dermatology training programs in the United States is the responsibility of the Residency Review Committee acting with authority delegated to it by the ACGME. Accredited dermatology residency training programs and clinical programs for first postgraduate year credit are listed in the AMA sponsored Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database (FRIEDA) Online and also at www.acgme.org.

c. The resident's time throughout each year (PGY2 - PGY4) must be related to the direct care of outpatients and inpatients (to include clinical conferences and didactic lectures related to patient care, inpatient and outpatient consultations, and other subspecialty rotations concerning dermatology. Lectures, seminars and conferences that address topics in basic science, medical dermatology, pediatric dermatology, dermatopathology and procedural dermatology are essential components of the resident's training (see the Program Requirements for Residency Training in Dermatology). The Board also emphasizes the importance of basic science and clinical investigation in the educational experience of trainees. Accordingly, all residents should have the opportunity to receive education in research methodology and participate in research, including basic and/or clinical investigation during their training. Individual programs may permit elective time, not to exceed 3 months per three-year period. Residency training requirements for individuals enrolled in an Investigative/Academic Training Track, are discussed under (d) below.

d. For those candidates whose career plans involve a primary commitment to investigative or academic dermatology, an Investigative Training Track, which must assure adequate clinical education and experience in accordance with the general requirements described above, may also be acceptable. The essential elements of such training tracks are as follows:

1. Training experiences for individuals in the Investigative Training Track must be candidate-specific (i.e., not a program-specific pathway).

2. The first year (PGY2) of this track must be 100% clinical in character. Click here to access a form to submit to the ABD office detailing the resident’s activities during the special training track period.

3. Investigative or academic experience can be integrated with the required additional clinical training during the second (PGY3), third (PGY4), and/or fourth (PGY5) year/s. In this Investigative Training Track, residents must satisfy a requirement for 225% direct patient care time (as defined by 100% clinical training in the first [PGY2] year and the balance of 125% clinical training apportioned over the second [PGY3], third [PGY4], and/or fourth [PGY5] years of this track). In addition, the Investigative Track must include the equivalent to a one-half day clinic per week each year until the 225% requirement is met. Continuity of patient care should be stressed as much as possible in this clinic experience. Rotations on the inpatient consultation service, for a period comparable to the time similarly scheduled for general dermatology residents, may be substituted for the outpatient clinic time during the special training track years of the residency.

4. Requests for approval of this Investigative Training Track must be submitted to the Executive Director of the Board prospectively, at least four (4) months prior to the beginning of such training. This will be on or before March 1 of the year preceding the onset of the special track. Requests earlier than January 1 of the PGY2 year will not be considered because the program director must have an opportunity to judge the clinical potential of the trainee. The request for consideration of this investigative track must include information about the intended research, a letter of support from the faculty member the resident will be working with, and a detailed schedule of the resident’s time commitments during the entire training period. It is incumbent upon program directors to select candidates for this special training track whose skills and learning capabilities permit the acquisition of clinical competence as well as the execution of their investigative or academic responsibilities. Moreover, the program director must monitor the training of these residents throughout their residency and must validate their clinical and research experiences at the completion of their residencies. Program directors should contact the Executive Director of the ABD if there are questions or if additional information is needed concerning this special track.

Guidelines for Determining Adequacy of Clinical Training

• The following guidelines are designed to assist program directors in their determination of the adequacy of the clinical training of residents and to assure satisfaction of the eligibility requirements for certification by the American Board of Dermatology.

• Of special concern are those residents on the special investigative/academic track or those residents whose training experience differs from the standard 36 months of fulltime clinical training, as approved for each program by the Residency Review Committee of the ACGME. 

1. In general, high priority should be given to completing 36 continuous months of fulltime dermatology training. For most residents, this will consist of fulltime clinical training; for residents with a primary commitment to investigative or academic dermatology, this may be a special training track. Any time lost from training (example: a medical leave of absence) should be documented and fully justified in the resident evaluation forms filed annually by the program director with the Board.

2. Any departure from (1), for example time lost for a medical leave of absence, should be documented and fully justified to the Board through the resident evaluation forms filed annually by the program director.

3. An absence exceeding six weeks in any one academic year or a total of 14 weeks over three years, including vacation, should be approved only under truly exceptional circumstances. 

• Time away spent in program-approved conferences designed to develop dermatology-relevant competencies are not to be used in calculating the total time away from training.

• In addition, any resident approved to sit for the certifying examination despite such an absence must either have completed each year of training in an above average or excellent manner or must complete an additional period of training at least equal in length to the total period of absence in excess of routinely provided total vacation time.

4. Any resident who has been absent more than six weeks in one year or 14 weeks over three years and whose performance has not been uniformly above average or excellent throughout residency training should be required to complete an additional period of training at least equal in length to the total period of absence in excess of routinely provided total vacation time. If the program director anticipates that this additional training will be completed in a satisfactory manner before September 1, a letter may be submitted to the Board requesting approval for the resident to sit for the July Certifying Examination. The letter must indicate the training period's anticipated completion date. The resident will not receive exam results or a certificate until the program director completes the annual evaluation at the conclusion of the extended training period. 

5. Any resident not meeting training milestones as assessed by the program’s clinical competency committee should be required to complete an additional period of training until residency progress is satisfactory.

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