President's Message: Warren Pendergast, MD, March 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014

“It is the age of foolishness, it is the age of wisdom… it is the winter of despair; it is the spring of hope” — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

It has been my great privilege to serve as your FSPHP President for the last two years. Together, we have accomplished a number of great things, and have set more in motion. I’d like to highlight one of FSPHP’s primary areas of work over the last year.

Specifically, your Federation has been in dialogue with the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) throughout 2013 and early 2014. In February 2014, Doris Gundersen, Brad Hall, and I met with representatives of the 24 member-specialty boards that make up the ABMS. Our goal will be to further educate the boards about how our PHP members work with physicians and other professionals. We will seek to learn from the boards what their current approach is to licensees who have lost certification, and how PHPs can best help participants keep or regain their certification as they regain medical licensure and other credentials.

The ABMS is currently reviewing its Maintenance of Certification (MOC) process, and this is expected to result in implementation of new Standards for the ABMS Program for MOC in January 2015. The section of the Standards that most directly applies to PHP participants who have lost licensure is the first: Professional Standing and Professionalism. Specifically, the proposed standards encourage member boards to “establish and maintain a process that gives former diplomats an opportunity to regain Board Certification.” In other words, the standard proposes a consistent pathway for our participants to regain their Board certification. If adopted by the ABMS, this will represent a huge step forward for our participants.

It seems likely that the ABMS member boards will in turn want some degree of consistency from FSPHP members with respect to PHP compliance and advocacy letters. At our fall FSPHP Board of Directors meeting in Chicago, we encouraged ABMS representatives to think of our recovering participants as “sick” rather than “bad.” Along those lines, we will need to build credibility and trust as to what it means when a PHP states in a letter that a participant has demonstrated a return to good health and is no longer “sick.” We are also in discussions with the ABMS about the possibility of including physician health and self-care modules as part of the educational offerings by specialty boards. This represents an incredible opportunity for FSPHP, for PHPs, and especially for our participants.

I’m very excited about these developments; we’ll continue to keep FSPHP members abreast of happenings as we move forward with the ABMS.

— Warren Pendergast, MD 
President, Federation of Physician Health Programs
Medical Director, North Carolina Physicians Health Program