American Society of Hematology

Statement from ASH President David A. Williams, MD, on Need for Changes to Maintenance of Certification, Comments on Assessment 2020 Report

Published on: November 05, 2015

As the world’s largest professional society concerned with the causes and treatment of blood disorders, the American Society of Hematology’s membership includes most of the 8,400 internists who hold hematology certificates issued by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). For more than 14 years, ASH has actively challenged the ABIM’s Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program on a number of fronts, including the lack of evidence that the program’s requirements improve the quality of medical care.

In September, the ABIM Assessment 2020 Task Force released a report that included several recommendations for the future of MOC. Overall, the report is disappointing because it largely focuses on means to revoke internists’ certifications despite the lack of evidence supporting MOC’s effectiveness in improving patient care. Modernizing MOC will require ABIM to shift away from a policing function and instead focus on continuing professional development. Additionally, substantial changes will be required to address the program’s lack of measurable benefits to practitioners for the time and expense to comply with MOC requirements.

In response to a request for comments on the report, this week ASH sent a letter to ABIM President Richard Baron, MD, highlighting the following key recommendations:

  • MOC should be customizable instead of using a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Specifically, ASH strongly urges ABIM to recognize the special contributions to clinical care that physician-scientists provide and develop a more realistic approach to the re-certification process for this group of practitioners. 
  • As there is a significant lack of high-quality, systematic, external research into MOC, ABIM should fund extramural research to inform the evidence base for decision-making in these processes.  
  • Hematologists uniformly note that the secure, closed-book examination required of diplomates every 10 years is not meaningful given the diversification of career paths in the subspecialty and the wasted time spent memorizing facts. ASH applauds the Assessment 2020 Task Force for recognizing these failures.
  • ABIM will further diminish its credibility with the community if it continues to apply a unilateral approach to the development of a new vision for MOC. Consensus building requires hard work, multilateral discussions, and shared visions and agendas. The Society looks forward to a time when ABIM fully embraces such an approach.

We hope ABIM will be receptive to our concerns as well as the feedback of all subspecialty societies that represent its diverse base of diplomates. The Society will keep pursuing opportunities for discussion with ABIM to represent the views of the hematology community and build a new approach to MOC that is valuable in improving patient care, straightforward for diplomates, and nonintrusive into the already busy schedules of practitioners and researchers.

Read ASH’s complete comments to ABIM at

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) ( is the world’s largest professional society of hematologists dedicated to furthering the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders affecting the blood. For more than 50 years, the Society has led the development of hematology as a discipline by promoting research, patient care, education, training, and advocacy in hematology. The official journal of ASH is Blood (, the most cited peer-reviewed publication in the field, which is available weekly in print and online.

Amanda Szabo, American Society of Hematology; 202-552-4914

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