General Medicine

Board examinations, again…

It was a brightly lit wide open room with many cubicles arranged on the periphery.  The test takers were grown-ups, but all carried that worried student look.  The secretary at the desk who checks you in makes TSA people seem jovial.  No personal effects were allowed, including a full-fledge divorce of the cell phone. Mysteriously, the test was devoid of ovals or pencils.

A former senior partner was already checked in and hard at work in his cubicle. At break, I asked him, “Hey, what are you doing here?  You are grandfathered.” 

“I want to be official.”

I thought, “that’s what I’m talking about!”  

Ten years had passed since fellowship.  Wow.  

Many evenings were spent on the internet study modules. Weekend mornings meant a trip to the coffee shop with the review book and legal pad.  Lists of things to remember were made–like the growing number of Long QT syndromes, each with their specific chromosome aberrations.  As if I would possibly remember them a week after the test.  A board review course in a far away city was deemed necessary.  Having no corporate disclosures is good for independent opinions, but makes for more expensive travel.  

Yes, preparing to re-certifiy in both cardiology and electrophysiology was like a long steady climb through a forest of trees that block the sight of the summit.

Unlike my more senior colleagues, my board certification had an expiration date of ten years. No grandfathering.  This is good for our patients as there is oodles to learn in ten years.   The density of knowledge acquired in the months preceding a board exam is staggering.  Learning all this, even if you were sure to forget the seldom used facts, rejuvenates the doctoring spirit. It made me better.

It is perplexing that retesting of doctors is news.  Or maybe, it is newsworthy that prior to the mid-1990s, older doctors were grandfathered forever.  Sometimes mandates are beneficial.

Finding metrics to measure our “quality” is in vogue. Surely, being able to pass a board exam once a decade is an important foundation.

Opening the congratulatory letter from the ABIM injects just a sliver of pride, like the kid at the sports banquet who is pleased with the shiny trophy.

This trophy–a piece of paper–is yet another addition to the dusty old cardboard box in the basement storage room.  The box behind the bicycles.


One reply on “Board examinations, again…”

Well done, Dr. John. I think it's wonderful that doctors like yourself take periodic tests to make sure you're up on the latest and that you haven't forgotten the most important things. You have every reason to be proud of passing.

By the way, I like the new look. Very nice. :o)

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