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Problems with ABP

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Neeek

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I have been reading these forums for years. I graduated residency this year, and I, along with many people I know, have had real problems with the ABP. There appears to be no mechanism of accountability for the things they do, so I thought I would bring it here. I want to see if others have similar stories, or have had similar problems. Sorry if this post gets long.

I signed up for the ABP initial general pediatrics board certifying exam way back in May. As you guys know, the test costs thousands of dollars, and we all spend a great deal of time preparing, and planning our lives around this date. Why it costs over $2000 is beyond me (the IM exam, for example, costs like 1300).

So, 18 hours before my test a get a notice stating that my exam has been cancelled. A problem at the testing center, which was known about for days but never relayed forward was the reason for the cancellation. The ABP is unavailable since its the weekend, and does not answer any calls until my program director calls them personally and finds a contact for those of us that were affected. They provide no apologies nor real assistance, simply extending the window to take the test and stating we can reschedule if there is a date available. Never mind the months and cost of preparation, the nonrefundable travel plans immediately following the test and encompassing the rest of the testing window. Never mind the opportunity cost of taking more days off of work and/or delaying the start of new jobs. They don't help reschedule, offer any form of reimbursement open no new testing centers, and generally are unapologetic.

Many of my friends (taking the test the same day at the same site) who were cancelled on scramble into testing centers in other states, with expensive travel and accommodations. While they were eventually promised reimbursement, it has become clear that this may not actually happen.


Meanwhile, a close friend of mine has a death in his immediate family a couple weeks before the test. He notifies the ABP immediately, hoping to postpone or reschedule while he is dealing with funerals, and the general aftermath of such a traumatic event. He is provided no help by the ABP. They do not offer to reschedule (even though they "allowed" rescheduling for those that were cancelled upon and dates are available that will allow him to take the test). They do not offer a refund or to let him take it next year, and hold over $1000 of the money he paid, stating that the cancellation rules will be applied (the rules are clearly stated, so he doesn't have much legal recourse, but clearly this is heartless and hypocritical). His program director tries to call to talk with them, and they refuse to answer her calls or emails. No help, no rescheduling, just take his money and run.


So we have an organization that will cancel the test at the VERY last minute on some 20 test-takers with no apologies, no reimbursement for the missed work days and travel plans, and only an offer to reschedule IF you can make one of their dates. The same organization uses a clear double standard, refusing to help if a test-taker needs some flexibility because of an unforseeable life emergency, leaving him out over $1000.


This organization appears to have no real oversight, and holds a monopoly on a test that has so much impact on our futures. A test that only has value because we are willing to participate. They were completely inflexible and unreasonable in the way they dealt with problems that many people I know have had with this test. Because there appears to be no line of recourse, and we are forced to comply with their hypocrisy, I would like to get this information out there.

Has anyone else had similar experiences? Perhaps if this is sufficiently common we can find a way to change their practices (something successfully achieved regarding the internal medicine boards in the past).
 

settingqt31

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I had a similar situation last year. I had an immediate family member die a couple weeks before boards and knew that mentally I wouldn't be able to focus. I also called the ABP immediately (on the way to the funeral home to plan the funeral). I luckily was able to talk with someone directly and they provided me an email to send my "written notification of withdrawal". They refunded a portion of boards but I was also out over $1000. I just paid again and took them this year. We shall see what happens, it's been one hell of a year and I'm hopeful I don't have to take them again!
 

Perrotfish

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The only way to make a board behave is to set up a second independent board. No one in Peds has been willing to do that.

Unfortunately I don't see their management of the board exam being something that would drive that big of a change, as crappy as OP's situation is. If it ever happened, I suspect it would be due to either:

1) Underfilling fellowship programs rebelling against the requirement for 3 year fellowships

OR

2) Pediatricians in general rebelling against MOC.

Either way I don't think the change is imminent.
 
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MEN2C

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I mean there are multiple peds fellowships which have spots that go unfilled. Haven't heard a single peep about shortening those fellowships....
 

Neeek

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UPDATE - I ended up taking the test about 6 weeks later only because I had already paid (and studied) for it. Unless my credentialing institution requires it, I will very likely not be recertifying through ABP in the future. This process provides no foreseeable value to my practice as a physician, and is clearly unresponsive and unapologetic for the hardships they cause.

It seems there has been a lot of pushback against other certifying organizations, which has resulted in change. The ABIM (american board of internal medicine), for instance, has instituted reforms in recent years as internists have refused to take the exam and specialist organizations have released official statements regarding the mismanagement of funds by the ABIM and the lack of evidence that certification has any meaningful impact on clinical care.

If others continue to have similar problems, please post about them here or elsewhere. Perhaps a $2300 test administered by a bloated, out of touch, and unresponsive organization without oversight isn't the best way to ensure competence for practicing physicians.
 
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