Learning about learning: Assessment2020 with American Board of Internal Medicine

I spent yesterday with esteemed colleagues from the American Board of Internal Medicine (@ABIMCert) and the rest of the Assessment 2020 Task Force group, who are from a cross section of medicine, health, education, policy, you-name-it. and patients ARE included, so they get the badge.

I get to say (with humor) that I am the token family medicine specialist (family medicine and internal medicine are distinct specialties) but really, this is an open engagement of people around the future of board certification and maintenance of certification for America’s internal medicine physicians.

Not a lot of people in the general public know what maintenance of certification (MOC) is; your doctor does, though. I sought to explain it in three posts when I was recently recertified by my board, the American Board of Family Medicine :

When I first joined the committee, I asked the question I always ask, “how will I be able to share what I am doing with you?” The initial answer was “we don’t know,” which is totally acceptable, more physicians should practice that one :).

Because ABIM is a learning organization now I/we know how. They’ve set up an open web site with a blog that accepts comments. When I’m working with another organization I actually prefer referring to a resource they create rather than creating one on my own. Ultimately, their story is theirs to tell and mine is mine to tell (a blog in every organization!). There’s even a hashtag, #assess2020 promoting dialogue in your social-network-of choice. 

In terms of what I’m learning and sharing as part of this group, the answer is “a lot.” I am fascinated by the approaches to evaluating physician competency in the future, how it’s done today (very deliberately), and also by the responsibility and scope of a medical specialty board.

As I discussed in the blog posts above, the idea of “maintaining certification” after training originated with the specialty of family medicine. It has since been adopted by all the specialties. In signing up to be a family medicine specialist, then, I signed up for regular evaluation, so I have an investment in the health of this process.

All of this said, I am not a specialist in internal medicine, not an expert in administering or creating cognitive assessments, am part of a much larger community of stakeholders. I should also state that this committee is not tackling the whole body of maintenance of certification, just the part that encompasses cognitive assessments (and I am learning a lot about what that means, bear with me).

I’m interested in future models of learning/assessment that leverage certification activity to promote healing relationships with patients, collaboration with colleagues, and inspire lifelong learning. I know that sounds very generic, but it’s worth saying because I believe the American Board of Internal Medicine is interested in these things too from our discussion. Enough to have someone like me participate :). And enough to have you participate as well, at http://assessment2020.abim.org.

I will write a blog post about what I’m learning, on the site, to encourage dialogue. My one regret about the day is that I did not take a group photograph (the future looks great on everyone) – next time. It’s a great and accomplished group, I feel there’s an openness to learning and growing (“to be convincing, you have to be convinceable”), and there’s an agreed understanding of who we’re dong this for, that other hashtag: #thepatient.

Finally, part of transforming the process of lifelong learning, is being open about the fact that you’re in the process of learning so that others can help you learn. With that in mind, I just started this course on Coursera, Instructional Methods in Health Professions Education | Coursera. In the past, I’ve waited until I passed to tell anyone I was in the course, I’ll just put it out there now to model the way….wish me luck!


Ted Eytan, MD