ABFM President Dr. Warren Newton Introduces Certification 2025 – The New 5-Year Cycle

ABFM President and CEO Dr. Warren Newton spoke before the South Carolina Academy of Family Physicians (SCAFP) on June 7, introducing the newly announced Certification 2025: the Continuous Certification 5-Year Cycle.

Warren Newton, MD, MPH

“Why board certification?” asked ABFM President and CEO Dr. Warren Newton, speaking before the South Carolina Academy of Family Physicians (SCAFP) in early June.  

“To me, it’s about trust,” Dr. Newton said. “Patients need a physician they trust, who is committed to improving [their practice] and having a high standard of care.” 

On June 7, 2024, Dr. Newton visited the SCAFP’s annual meeting in Hilton Head, South Carolina, to deliver a presentation on “The Now and Future of ABFM Board Certification.” 

This three-part presentation discussed the current components of the certification experience, ABFM’s ongoing support of research to improve the specialty, and the first in-person presentation of the newly announced Certification 2025, the Continuous Certification 5-Year Cycle. Starting January 1, 2025, all ABFM Diplomates who are due for their exam in 2025 will be enrolled in the new 5-Year Cycle. ABFM will honor the 10-year commitments it has made. For example, a Diplomate who passed their exam in 2022 would not transition to the 5-Year Cycle until 2032.  

“We are making this change, not only because we’re meeting new ABMS [American Board of Medical Specialties] requirements, but also because we think it’s a better plan,” said Dr. Newton, when discussing the advantages the 5-Year Cycle has to offer. For example, Diplomates never have to take the one-day exam again unless they want to, because they now have the opportunity to participate in the Family Medicine Certification Longitudinal Assessment (longitudinal assessment) exam option instead.  

“Starting in 2025, the default choice for your exam will be the longitudinal assessment, because we think it’s better. In the past few years, more than 80 percent (almost 34,000) of physicians [eligible Diplomates] have chosen to participate in this exam option,” he said.

Almost all Diplomates participating in the longitudinal assessment have reported that the questions are relevant to their practice. They appreciate the format of 25 questions per quarter online, with an open book option, and 5 minutes to answer. Eighty-five percent of Diplomates report looking up additional information after the exam is completed, and 84 percent report they have changed their practice as the result of the exam. Most importantly, Diplomates say they are “learning as they go.” 

The one-day option remains available as some Diplomates do better with that style of exam. “Whatever physicians [Diplomates] prefer is what we want to encourage,” Dr. Newton said. 

Throughout his presentation, Dr. Newton returned over and over to the flexibility Diplomates will have with the new 5-Year Cycle. In addition to the exam options, he took time to discuss the many Knowledge Self-Assessment and Performance Improvement activities that Diplomates may customize to fit their practice needs. These include the ABFM National Journal Club, Continuous Knowledge Self-Assessment, and numerous customizable Performance Improvement activities. 

“Our patients want and need a lifelong commitment to learning,” said Dr. Newton. “I’m really excited by the ways our physicians [Diplomates] can focus their learning, and I promise we will continue to build upon our recent work to improve your experience.” 

After Dr. Newton’s presentation to the South Carolina family physicians, many attendees stayed nearby to discuss what they had heard. Dr. W. Hugh Morgan, past president of the SCAFP and ABFM board-certified family physician for more than 40 years, spoke positively about the 5-Year Cycle. “I think it’s a good thing. Ten years is a long time to go without testing our education, especially as fast as medicine is changing these days,” he said. 

Dr. Cecelia Baskett, ABFM board certified since 2014, will be one of the first to join the 5-Year Cycle, as her next exam requirement is due in 2025. “I think the 5-Year Cycle is a de-burdening for us. I’m very excited to not have to do the one-day exam,” she said. “This gives me time to read material I’m interested in, and it takes a lot of immediate pressure off me to study for a single big exam. I think this is wonderful.” 

Thank you to Dr. Newton and all the family physicians who joined us in South Carolina. We look forward to spreading the good news about the possibilities of the Continuous Certification 5-Year Cycle in the months ahead.

Aaron Burch serves as Editorial Content Manager for the American Board of Family Medicine. He has been writing professionally in the health care field since 2014.

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