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Special Millennium Article
January 2000

Boards Evaluate, Societies Educate: What About the American Medical Accreditation Program?

Arch Dermatol. 2000;136(1):54-56. doi:10.1001/archderm.136.1.54

Is medicine about to end the millennium by making the same mistake it corrected almost a century ago?

A strange irony will be recorded by medical historians when they describe physician credentialing of the 20th century. It will be noted that as this century began, a chaotic era of the professional tradesman and self-proclaimed specialist brought medicine to an inordinately low level, a point at which no patient, indeed no institution, could be assured of the knowledge and skills of specialist physicians.1 Fortunately, society was saved by the certifying board movement, which provided a mechanism by which the training and experience of physicians could be assessed by independent organizations that had no affiliation with professional societies. Thus avoided were the painfully obvious conflicts of interest that can characterize credentialing by a medical society in which mere membership in the organization, purchasable by payment of dues, could confer or appear to confer specialist status on a physician. For the better part of the century, therefore, because of the certification process as carried out by certifying boards representing all the old and new medical disciplines, our nation has enjoyed remarkable stability and patient trust in the credentialing of specialist physicians. As a result of this experience, a fundamental principle emerged that has generally defined the respective responsibilities of our major medical organizations—boards evaluate, societies educate.