All primary Family Medicine certification exams given by the ABFM are known as "Family Medicine Certification Examination" regardless of whether a physician is certifying for the first time or is recertifying after having been previously certified. The single examination name was implemented in 2012 as the "Maintenance of Certification for Family Physicians Examination." In 2016, the single examination changed to the current name, "Family Medicine Certification Examination."
Beginning in 2012, any physician who does not successfully pass the Family Medicine Certification Examination within the 3 calendar years following the year in which residency training is completed will be required to satisfy the Family Medicine Certification Entry Process in order to be eligible for the exam and gain certification status.
The Entry Process includes:
- Completion of Family Medicine Certification, Self-Assessment, & Performance Improvement Requirements:
- Minimum of one (1) Knowledge Self-Assessment Activity
- Minimum of one (1) Performance Improvement Activity with Patient Population
- Minimum of 50 Family Medicine Certification points from completion of Self-Assessment and Performance Improvement Activities
- Completion of one hundred fifty (150) credits of acceptable continuing medical education
- Submission of Entry Process Fee
- Submission of an application for the examination with full payment of the examination fee
Eligibility Requirements for Initial Certification
All candidates for the American Board of Family Medicine Certification Examination must have satisfactorily completed 3 years of training (a full 36 calendar months with 12 months in each of the G-1, G-2, and G-3 years) in a Family Medicine residency program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) subsequent to receipt of the M.D. or D.O. degree from an accredited institution and, when applicable, a Fifth Pathway Year, or receipt of a Standard Certificate from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), or compliance with other ACGME requirements for entry into graduate medical training in the United States. If a physician does not meet the eligibility requirements of the ACGME for residency training in Family Medicine, his/her training will not be recognized by the Board.
Candidates who obtained their M.D. degree from medical schools in the United States or Canada must have attended a school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education or the Committee for Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools. Candidates who obtained a D.O. degree must have graduated from a college of osteopathic medicine accredited by the American Osteopathic Association.
All applicants for the Family Medicine Certification Examination are subject to the approval of the Board, and the final decision regarding any application rests solely with the ABFM. No candidate will be allowed to take the examination until all fees are paid and all requirements have been satisfactorily met.
Satisfactory Completion of Residency
The Board prefers all 3 years of postgraduate training to be in the same ACGME-accredited Family Medicine program; however, other training may be considered as equivalent (e.g., Flexible/Transitional Year, AOA Osteopathic Internship, etc.). In these cases the American Board of Family Medicine requires residency programs to notify the ABFM of residents who are entering training with Advanced Placement credit via the Resident Training Management (RTM) System. If the Program Director fails to comply, the Board will determine the amount of transfer credit at the time of its discovery of the transfer. Consequently, the resident may receive less credit toward certification than anticipated and may be required to extend the duration of training.
The last two years of Family Medicine residency training must be completed in the same accredited program. Transfers after the beginning of the G-2 year are approved only in extraordinary circumstances.
All candidates' education and training experiences are subject to review and approval by the ABFM.
Deadline for Completion of Training—Residents who are expected to complete training by June 30 are automatically provided the application link for the April examination. Residents who are expected to complete training between July 1 and October 31 may be declared eligible to apply for the April examination based on a recommendation from their residency program director. Residents who are expected to complete after October 31 and before December 31 will be permitted to apply for the November exam.
Final Verification—Verification of satisfactory completion of residency training is submitted through the Resident Training Management (RTM) system by the Family Medicine Residency Program Director. Program Directors may access the RTM system up to 15 days before the anticipated completion date of the resident to verify satisfactory completion of residency training. Candidates for the Certification Examination will not receive certification until the Program Director has verified this information (pending all other certification requirements have been met). The effective date of certification will be the date in which the physician has met all certification requirements.
Certification will be awarded when all of the criteria are met:
- Successful performance on the ABFM Family Medicine Certification Examination
- The Program Director verifies that the resident has successfully met all of the ACGME program requirements
- The candidate obtains an active, valid, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in any state or territory of the United States or any province of Canada
Continuing Medical Education
Candidates who apply for the Certification Examination within 3 years of completion of an ACGME-accredited Family Medicine Residency are not required to document any continuing medical education. Candidates who apply after the 3-year period will be required to complete the Entry Process, which requires 150 hours of acceptable CME in the last 3 years.
To obtain and maintain certification, all candidates must hold an active, valid, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in any state or territory of the United States or any province of Canada.
Candidates may begin an application and sit for the exam while in the process of obtaining a permanent medical license; however, a permanent license without restrictions or limitations of any kind must be obtained in order to obtain certification (pending all other certification requirements have been met). The effective date of certification will be the date in which the physician has met all certification requirements.
After a successful examination attempt, candidates have the 10 calendar years following their exam year to meet all requirements to become initially certified. This includes obtaining an active, valid, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in any state or territory of the United States or any province of Canada. Certification begins when all requirements for initial certification have been met. Period of certification is limited to the 10 years following the successful exam attempt.
Any action (including "Non-Disciplinary" actions and/or actions against a temporary or training/educational license) by a licensing authority potentially places a physician in jeopardy of losing Diplomate status and/or eligibility for certification. Should a physician be uncertain about the status of a medical license relative to ABFM policy, a written inquiry should be made to the Board prior to attempting an application. A violation of ABFM policy on licensure can be any action by a state licensing agency, agreement between a licensing agency and a physician, or voluntary action by a physician that revokes, restricts or suspends the physician's medical license (including any actions against an institutional, temporary, and training medical licenses). In cases where a physician has changed his/her residence deliberately to avoid prosecution, loss of license, or disciplinary action by a state licensing agency, the Board reserves the right to revoke or suspend Diplomate status and/or prohibit application for certification. Unrestricted licenses that have become inactive (e.g. expired, nonrenewal) are not a violation of the Board's policy on licensure, as long as the physician maintains at least one other active, valid, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in any state or territory of the United States or any province of Canada.
Every license to practice medicine held by the candidate in any state or territory of the United States or province of Canada must be active, valid, full, and unrestricted whether or not the candidate in effect practices in such state, territory, or province. Candidates shall be required to maintain a full and unrestricted medical license in the United States or Canada even if a physician is out of the country for extended periods of time.
Any candidate whose license to practice medicine has been revoked, restricted, or suspended in ANY state or territory of the United States or province of Canada shall be ineligible for certification until such time as the encumbered license is reinstated in full. Should a license be revoked, restricted, or suspended following the submission of an application for certification but prior to the notification of examination results, the application and certification will be simultaneously invalidated.
It is the responsibility of the candidate to inform the Board in writing immediately upon a change in licensure status. Candidates should be aware that the ABFM receives periodic Disciplinary Action Reports from the American Medical Association of actions by states against medical licenses.