AAEM Position Statement Opposing the Creation or Recognition of an American Board of Disaster Medicine (ABDM) under the auspices of the American Board of Physician Specialists (ABPS)

The American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM), a national professional society of board-certified emergency physicians, has serious concerns about the creation of the American Board of Disaster Medicine (ABDM) by the American Board of Physician Specialists (ABPS). We note that:

A. The creation of any subspecialty board must follow a rigorous process as board certification is held out to the public as a marker of special expertise. For example, new subspecialty recognition by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) requires demonstration of a distinct body of knowledge and contributions to the scientific literature. There is extensive peer review of the application. The approval process typically takes many years to be completed. No information has been provided regarding the process used by ABPS to declare disaster medicine a recognizable subspecialty.

B. Board certification requires a distinct program of preparation. No information has been provided by ABPS regarding the educational requirements and pathway to certification status. ABPS comments imply that previously acquired knowledge and experience is widespread enough to allow for the creation of the board and the administration of certifying examinations. This approach disregards the few disaster fellowship programs and EMS fellowship programs stressing disaster medicine that already exist and bypasses the traditional method for a physician to obtain specialist status.

C. Creation of any new subspecialty board must be a transparent process and be done by experts in that particular field. No information has been provided regarding the expertise or authority of ABPS to create such a board. If, in fact, disaster medicine is a domain of multiple clinical specialties, the various concerned professional societies need to be involved in the development and ultimate creation of any board addressing this field.

D. A subspecialty board is primarily a certifying body and enforcer of established standards. We are concerned with the statement by a representative of ABPS indicating that the simple existence of a new board is "the integral step towards preparing America's Health Care system so that when disasters strike, we work together." Similarly, a subspecialty board should not be involved in "providing a knowledge base and advice to various organizations that engage in preparedness."

E. A certifying examination must be scientifically created and formally validated as a tool which predicts expertise when passed. No information is provided regarding how or by whom the first certification exam is to be written or scientifically validated.

AAEM opposes the creation of the ABDM under the ABPS. AAEM further strongly cautions against its recognition by any local, state or federal authority as a unique certifying body for expertise in disaster or preparedness fields. Until such time as a formal, standardized and recognized process is completed to create a subspecialty and an appropriate and validated certification process, we oppose the informal and ad hoc efforts of ABPS to assert expertise and authority in this area.

Statement developed by the AAEM Emergency Medical Services Committee.


Approved: August 14, 2006