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Family Medicine Certification Renewal

Up until 2018, I was board certified through the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM). I decided to skip recertification and maintained a board certification with NBPAS. Unfortunately, this alternative board certification isn’t accepted in a lot of places. So, I finally sat for the family medicine board exam and now have my family medicine board certification renewal.

The Family Medicine Trademark

The term “family medicine doctor” is trademarked. I bet you didn’t know that. You’re not allowed to call yourself a family medicine doctor unless you are board-certified by the ABFM.

I found this out the hard way. Once my ABFM board certification expired I got a letter from the business bureau of California telling me that I was being fined $500 for misrepresenting myself.

After some back and forth with them and after getting my lawyer involved it turns out that my family medicine residency and my NBPAS board certification weren’t enough for me to be called a family doctor.

I wasn’t even calling myself a family medicine doctor. Instead, it was all those websites like vitlas.com which had listed me as a family medicine doctor.

I had to contact each and every place online which had me listed as a family medicine doctor and try to get them to change it. And I had to pay the $500 fine.

Setting Credential Standards

It’s a good idea to maintain high standards when it comes to a certain designation and credentials. For better or worse we have decided as a society that the average citizen is incapable of vetting medical experts and designation standards are required in order to protect them.

Only a few select people should be able to call themselves doctors, dentists, neurologists, surgeons, etc.

However, allowing only a single entity to own the rights to this designation seems to go against what we stand for in America. Anywho, it is what it is. Right now only the ABMS can decide if you’re a family medicine doctor. End of story.

Being a Real Doctor

What does it mean to be a doctor? I read the wiki on it and it makes sense. You’re a medical practitioner who is responsible for promoting health, restoring, and maintaining it. For this, you can utilize studies, diagnoses, prognostication, and treatments.

Okay, what is it to be a doctor in the US? I think the basics of the wiki info above stand. But if you want to have a lasting career in medicine you must obey your employer, practice defensive medicine, and curb your time with your patient.

Being a real doctor to me is listening and hearing my patient and using my expertise in medicine to offer a custom treatment plan. This advice should be free of any biases like the fear of being sued or getting a patient complaint or worrying about the medical board coming after me.

Alas, we don’t live in the real world and the best I can do is just be a doctor. I am not convinced that being a doctor these days is all that healthy for the patient but we definitely do some good, don’t we?

Playing by the Rules

I need to play the game in order to be able to practice medicine. This “practice” is becoming less and less desirable but I still am excited about the idea of being a doctor.

I needed to renew my family medicine board certification in order to see patients. Just like I needed to jump through all the medical board hoops to be able to continue practicing medicine.

I don’t think that this is all that bad. Yes, I could vilify the medical boards and the medical system but the reality is that this healthcare industry is a for-profit industry like any other.

I can deny it, resist it, fight it, and wish it weren’t so. But that won’t change anything.

Studying for the Boards

I’m not a good test taker but I can be disciplined better than anyone else I know. I set a schedule to study 2-4 hours every day.

I purchased the NEJM question bank. It’s over 5,000 questions, covering about 1,000 clinical concepts. Really well done and you can use their artificial intelligence algorithm to really dive deeper into each topic.

There are practice tests there as well so it was really helpful. I was tracking my progress and I would say that the first 4 weeks I was doing the best. But I kept studying for a total of 2 months and my performance dropped.

I also downloaded some old tests with really good answer explanations. I didn’t do all of them but it was helpful.

At around 50% of correct answers you should pass. To be safe I was aiming for 62%. On my practice exams I was getting 75% correct after the first 2 weeks of studying. By week 4 my percentage had dropped down to 68-72%. Which I think was due to overstudying.

Family Medicine Board Certification Renewal – The Exam

The last week before the test I got into the habit of waking up early in the morning and doing practice questions.

There were 4 sections of 75 questions. I took the first 2 sections back to back and took a quick break. Then did the third section, followed by another quick break and then did the last one.

I didn’t do a lunch break but snacked on some chocolate and nuts. I had a coffee left over from breakfast which was a good energy booster as well.

I passed the family medicine board recertification exam with plenty of room to spare. My only recommendation would be to not overstudy which I sort of did. I think with 2 weeks of solid studying or 4 weeks of slower-paced studying I would have still passed.

3 replies on “Family Medicine Certification Renewal”

That NEJM product looks like it might be pretty good. Thanks for posting about it.
Not cheap but maybe worth it if you get CME.
Did you have any problems with the specialty board letting you recertify after you had lapsed for a few years? I let mine lapse and am considering “re-entering.” I didn’t mind the exam periodically but was annoyed by extra costs and busy work added over the past decade which take time/energy away from patient care.

As long as you practiced some clinical medicine it shouldn’t be an issue. But if it’s been more than 3 years then they might make you jump through a few hoops but from what I understand if you reach out to them they make exceptions and will work with you.

Don’t forget to pay your $200/yr re-cert fees, submit your CME q3 yrs, and do your clinical knowledge assessments. What a joke bro. I’m triggered by the ABFM monopoly. I have to take my recertification test in 2023. Allegedly, there’s a new option to do test questions every year to avoid the big test q10 yrs.

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