ABFM Continues Certification Process Upgrades

Changes to MC-FP Entry/Re-entry, Definition of Board Eligibility Take Effect

January 25, 2012 01:25 pm Matt Brown
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In its effort to emphasize continuous, lifelong learning, the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), in Lexington, Ky., continues to enhance its Maintenance of Certification for Family Physicians(www.theabfm.org) (MC-FP) program.

According to the most recent edition of the ABFM's newsletter(www.theabfm.org), as of Jan. 1, family physicians seeking to earn or maintain board certification(www.theabfm.org) must adhere to new MC-FP entry and re-entry requirements. Under the new schedule, a physician who does not pass the MC-FP exam within the three years following completion of residency training will be required to satisfy the MC-FP entry process to be eligible to take the exam and gain initial certification status.

This change also applies to previously certified family physicians who have never entered the MC-FP process.

Entry or re-entry to MC-FP requires that a physician

  • accrue 50 MC-FP points (including at least one Part II module and one Part IV activity),
  • earn 150 CME credits,
  • successfully complete the MC-FP exam, and
  • maintain a valid, full and unrestricted license throughout the three-year period.
story highlights

  • The American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) has implemented an entry/re-entry process for its Maintenance of Certification for Family Physicians (MC-FP) program.
  • Physicians have three years to pass the initial certification or the recertification MC-FP exam.
  • The ABFM also has defined the term "board-eligible" to clear up confusion surrounding the term and stop its misuse.
  • A comparison chart illustrates upcoming changes to MC-FP deadlines and requirements.

Family physicians unable to complete the entry/re-entry requirements by the deadline are encouraged to consider waiting until the next examination period to apply, because once the process is initiated, the physician "must complete all components within three years or restart the process again."

Board Eligibility Defined

In addition to the MC-FP entry/re-entry process changes, the ABFM Board of Directors has defined "board-eligible" as pertaining strictly to the first seven years after loss of certification or completion of a residency training program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

The ABFM board took this action to clear up confusion surrounding the term, which has never been recognized by member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties but often is used by credentialing organizations and others to recognize noncertified physicians as having near-equivalent status.


Beginning in 2012, the American Board of Family Medicine's Maintenance of Certification for Family Physicians (MC-FP) examination will be held in April rather than July. Dates for the April 2012 exam are April 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 21, with results due back June 21. Test center information is available online(www.theabfm.org).

Residents who are in good standing and who expect to complete training on or about June 30, 2012, are eligible to take the April 2012 exam. A currently valid, full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in the United States or Canada is not required for residents to apply for and take the exam.

The exam will be offered again in November for candidates who do not pass the spring exam or for residents in good standing who are off-cycle and who expect to complete training on or about Dec. 31, 2012.

The dates for the November exam are Nov. 7, 8, 9 and 10.

"The abuse of the board-eligible term and status perpetuated the ability of poorly qualified physicians to practice outside of their initial certification, with a risk to patients, and resulted in a lack of relationship between the initial certifying examination and training as a concurrent/synergistic measure of physician competency," the ABFM said in its newsletter.

Beginning Jan. 1, family physicians who fall into this category will have seven years to pass their initial certification examination or, if previously certified, seven years from this date to successfully complete the MC-FP examination.

During the seven-year period, board-eligible physicians will be required to continue to meet the ongoing requirements to sit for the examination and must maintain a full, valid and unrestricted medical license, the newsletter noted. "After this seven-year period, the physician will lose the ability to refer to himself or herself as board-eligible and will need to re-enter training and complete at least one year of additional training in an ACGME-accredited family medicine residency before he or she will be allowed to reapply to sit for the examination."

Conversion to Continuous MC-FP

Finally, several upcoming changes to MC-FP better emphasize continuous, lifelong learning. The new, continuous MC-FP process will apply to physicians who successfully completed the exam in 2011 and, thus, who are entering MC-FP beginning in 2012; those currently enrolled in MC-FP will not be affected until their next MC-FP exam.

The following comparison chart is intended to help physicians better understand the changes.

[MC-FP Comparison Chart for ABFM Upgrades]