The American Board of Emergency Medicine

Bringing the Gold Standard in Emergency Care to Lansing

A conversation with American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) Executive Director Earl J. Reisdorff.

What is ABEM and what is its mission?

ABEM is the premier national medical specialty board that certifies emergency physicians who meet its educational, professional standing and examination standards. ABEM’s mission is to ensure the highest standards in the specialty of emergency medicine. ABEM is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the umbrella organization for the 24 recognized medical specialties.

What sparked the idea for ABEM and how did it get started?

In the early 1960s, the public began to demand improved quality of care in emergency departments. In response, hospitals developed full-time emergency services. As a result, a number of physicians began developing the training and practice of emergency medicine. To support this growing physician group, new organizations formed, such as the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), which was located in Lansing. 

In the early 1970s, ACEP began the arduous process of setting forth the standards for credentials and certification in emergency medicine, which involved developing training requirements for residency programs and eligibility requirements for physicians who wished to sit for the examinations. 

As a result, in 1976 ABEM was incorporated to become the certifying board for emergency medicine. In 1979, the American Board of Medical Specialties approved emergency medicine as the 23rd medical specialty. The fact that ACEP began here means that Lansing is the birthplace of organized emergency medicine.

What does it take to be certified by ABEM and what are the benefits?

To become certified by ABEM, a physician must complete an accredited emergency medicine residency program; pass both a secure high-stakes, multiple choice examination and an oral examination; and have a medical license that meets ABEM policy.

One benefit is greater job opportunities, as board certification is among the requirements to practice at many hospitals. In addition, ABEM-certified physicians have the opportunity to certify in 14 subspecialties, such as emergency medical services and pediatric emergency medicine. Second, board certification indicates that a physician is a recognized specialist in emergency medicine, which is a source of professional pride.

How does ABEM establish a higher level of emergency medical care?

ABEM certification is the “gold standard” in board certification. The requirements for ABEM certification and continuing certification help to ensure the public that if they are treated by an ABEM-certified physician, they will get the best quality care available. ABEM certification and continuing certification are recognized as a higher standard in emergency care.

How does ABEM contribute to the Greater Lansing community?

In addition to providing good jobs and paying state and local taxes, ABEM staff regularly hold internal fundraising events to benefit local charities. Among past recipients are Small Talk, Greater Lansing Food Bank, Beekman Therapeutic Riding Center, East Lansing Public Library, a pediatric emergency medicine unit, a local hospice program and a Lansing elementary school.

What does ABEM look forward to in the future?

Currently, we are developing a new type of testing format that will move away from an assessment of learning toward an assessment for learning. Learning will be measured as change in knowledge over time, acquiring and mastering knowledge (including new advances in the specialty), and the application of actionable knowledge. By rapidly identifying and assessing physicians on emerging diseases and treatments, ABEM will radically transform knowledge translation for the specialty. 

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