The American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) certification process provides a mechanism for you to demonstrate your current competency, commitment to high quality care, and professionalism to your patients, the public, and your colleagues. Patients highly value knowing that their physician is board certified. 

Family Medicine Certification (FMC) is a continuous voluntary process that emphasizes the importance of ongoing participation in activities that evaluate each of these components, with a goal of maintaining clinical excellence that benefits both you and  your patients. Continuous Family Medicine Certification is divided into three-year stages, with an examination every 10 years. The components of continuous certification are designed to assess important physician characteristics: Professionalism, Self-Assessment and Lifelong Learning, Cognitive Expertise, and Performance Improvement.


Board certification is about setting high standards for self-regulation in our specialty. Professionalism refers to maintaining specific standards of competence and integrity, which you must demonstrate throughout your Family Medicine Certification cycle.

  • Fulfillment of this requirement requires continuous compliance with ABFM Guidelines for Professionalism, Licensure, and Personal Conduct which includes holding medical license(s) which meet the l icensure requirements of the Guidelines.

Self-Assessment and Lifelong Learning

The purpose of this component is to help you assess and enhance the clinical knowledge and skills important to provide high-level patient care. These activities allow the physician to self-assess his or her knowledge in a health topic that is self-chosen to be relevant to the Diplomate’s area of practice.

Cognitive Expertise

The purpose of the secure examination is to measure the knowledge that sets you, the board-certified family physician, apart from non-physicians and other non-certified medical practitioners with less training and experience. It serves to assure the public that you are up to date and aware of best practices in medical care in the wide spectrum of illnesses treated by family physicians.

Performance Improvement

This component encourages you to demonstrate competence in systematic measurement and improvement in patient care. You will assess aspects of patient care and outcomes using evidence-based quality indicators. You may compare your performance to national or regional standards.

  • Fulfillment of this component requires completion of the required number of Performance Improvement (PI) activities during each three-year stage.

Continuous Family Medicine Certification Stage Requirements

In order to continuously assess your knowledge and stay current with family medicine, the ABFM recommends that you participate in one certification activity per year. However, because that’s not always possible, there is flexibility built into the process, and the required activities may be completed at any time during each three-year stage.

The Self-Assessment and Lifelong Learning and Performance Improvement components of continuous certification include activity requirements. Each three-year stage includes the following activity and CME requirements: