Medical specialty certification in the United States is a voluntary process. While medical licensure sets the minimum competency requirements to diagnose and treat patients, it is not specialty specific. Board certification demonstrates a physician’s commitment and expertise in a particular specialty and/or subspecialty of medical practice.
The American Board of Phlebology (ABPh), an independent non-profit organization organized under the laws of the state of Illinois, was established in 2007. Diplomates of the board have extensive knowledge of and training in the diagnosis and treatment of vein disorders. Certification demonstrates that physicians have met rigorous standards of education, experience, and evaluation. In order to become board certified, a phlebologist must:
• Meet professional standing requirements;
• Complete the requisite training or experience qualifications;
• Meet the continuing medical education requisites; and
• Pass a certification examination.
The mission of the ABPh is to improve the quality of medical practitioners and the care of patients related to venous disorders through rigorous testing, reliable certification, and improved educational standards.
In accordance with this mandate, the ABPh Certification Examination was developed using the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, which establishes procedures for exam development to insure valid interpretation of score results.
Standards is published and adopted by the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education.
Once an applicant meets the rigorous prerequisites they must pass the comprehensive exam in order to become a Diplomate of the Board. The ABPh Board Certification Exam is a computer-based examination comprised of approximately 200 multiple-choice questions. The content of the examination includes Basic Science (8%), Venous Diseases and Syndromes (20%), Diagnostic Tools and Screening (10%), Duplex Ultrasound and other Imaging Modalities (25%), Treatment (35%), and Professional Standards (2%).
Additional detail is available from the ABPh website. Certification is for a period of ten years, at which time a re-certification examination must be taken. Maintenance of certification requirements are under development.
The ABPh administered its first Board Certifi cation Exam in phlebology in May 2008.
The exam was delivered on the Pearson Vue testing system accessible from over 4,000 authorized test centers worldwide. Two hundred seventy six (276) applicants, with specialty backgrounds including vascular surgery, general surgery, interventional radiology, family practice, internal medicine, vascular medicine, dermatology, plastic surgery and gynecology, took the exam. Two hundred forty eight (248) passed the exam.
About 200 physicians have applied to sit for the 2009 examination, scheduled for April 18-25, 2009.
The American Board of Phlebology seeks to improve the standards of training for medical practitioners and the quality of patient care related to the treatment of venous disorders and all aspects of venous disease. The creation of the ABPh was in response to the concerns that there is no residency devoted to training physicians in the field of phlebology, that the level of training in phlebology is very diverse across the training programs in other medical specialties, and that many physicians in those specialties have had little or no training during their residency or fellowship training in endovenous ablation and other areas of phlebology. The ABPh is designed to foster specialized care for patients with venous disease by providing a certification that rigorously evaluates whether a physician has the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to provide high quality care for venous disorders. In my opinion the ABPh board certification is the most reliable credential for demonstrating that a physician has the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to treat patients with venous disease.
Steven E. Zimmet, MD RVT FACPh