American Board of Emergency Medicine, USA

The American Board of Emergency Medicine is one of 24 medical specialty certification boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. ABEM certifies emergency physicians who meet its educational, professional, and examination standards. ABEM certification is sought and earned by emergency physicians on a voluntary basis; ABEM is not a member association.

EM is the 23rd recognized medical specialty in the United States. In the early 1960s, the United States public began to demand improved quality of care in hospital emergency departments. In response, hospitals developed full-time emergency services. As a result, a number of physicians began developing the training and practice of EM.

In 1973, the AMA sponsored a conference on physician education in emergency medical care. In 1975, the AMA approved a formal section on EM.

ABEM offered the first EM certification examinations in 1980 and certified its first diplomates in that year.

ABEM contracted OMERAD at Michigan State University to develop and present an annual workshop for ABEM item writers, beginning in 1985. This annual workshop is now developed and conducted internally. ABEM contracted OMERAD in 1986-1987 to develop a high-level, formal training program for ABEM oral examiners, which has continued to expand with additional refinements.

In May 1987, ABEM submitted an application to ABMS for conversion to primary board status. The ABMS Assembly defeated this application by a vote of 52-48, with six abstentions. (Approval requires a two-thirds ABMS Assembly vote.) Following that vote, ABEM officers and directors engaged in a series of active discussions with its sponsors and other ABMS Member Boards, during which many of the issues and concerns raised by the 1987 application were clarified and resolved.

On May 11, 1989, ABEM submitted a new application to ABMS for conversion to primary board status. ABEM’s sponsors and most other ABMS Member Boards supported this application. On September 21, 1989, the ABMS Assembly voted unanimously to approve the ABEM application. Ten years after the 1979 original vote making ABEM an ABMS Member Board with conjoint (modified) status, ABEM took its place as an ABMS Member Board with full primary board status.

ABEM offered recertification for the first time in 1989.

A new format integrating dynamic stimuli into the testing process was introduced in the November 2014 Qualifying Examination and the spring 2015 Oral Certification Examination. In addition, the examinations incorporated new specifications, grounded in the EM Model and a detailed description of what a board certified emergency physician knows and is able to do (their knowledge, skills, and abilities, or KSAs). The revised testing formats and specifications warranted reconsideration of the existing passing score criteria. After deliberation on several factors, the Board approved a new passing score of 76 on a scale of 0 to 100 for the Qualifying Examination. Following the spring administration, the Board determined the final passing score for the Oral Certification Examination to be 5.38. Both examinations continue to be criterion referenced.

During 2014-2015, ABEM endowed a fellowship within the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The ABEM Fellowship is a two-year fellowship that provides early-career, health-science scholars the opportunity to experience and participate in evidence-based health care or public health studies that affect the nation’s health.

ABEM’s purposes are:

  • To improve the quality of emergency medical care
  • To establish and maintain high standards of excellence in Emergency Medicine and subspecialties
  • To enhance medical education in the specialty of Emergency Medicine and related subspecialties
  • To evaluate physicians and promote professional development through initial and continuous certification in Emergency Medicine and its subspecialties
  • To certify physicians who have demonstrated special knowledge and skills in Emergency Medicine and its subspecialties
  • To enhance the value of certification for ABEM diplomates
  • To serve the public and medical profession by reporting the certification status of the diplomates of the American Board of Emergency Medicine

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