As a community, we’ve all become acutely aware of the danger misinformation poses to our patients and profession. Too many have died or needlessly suffered from COVID because they’ve been misled by something they’ve seen on social media, often coming from someone holding themselves out as an expert. We have a responsibility—as board certified physicians who truly have medical expertise—to take decisive action and combat this rising tide of harmful misinformation.
That’s why ABIM, the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) and the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) recently issued a joint statement on the dissemination of misinformation, which read in part that “…such unethical or unprofessional conduct may prompt their respective board to take action that could put their certification at risk.”
Thank you for supporting this action. The overwhelming majority of responses to the statement have been positive. There’s a strong sense that our community of physicians is looking for ABIM to take whatever steps it can to support colleagues who have been valiantly providing care, often in under-resourced, adverse and demanding circumstances; and that those colleagues deserve to be distinguished from those who are more “friends of the virus” than they are of their patients’ health.
Some have rightly asked what ABIM is actually going to do, and if the statement has any “teeth.”
I want to state unequivocally that ABIM can and does take action, independent of state licensing boards, to remove certification from physicians for unprofessional and unethical behavior. The procedures are spelled out in ABIM’s Disciplinary Sanctions and Appeals policy.
Earning and maintaining certification takes time, dedication and effort, and we know any decisions ABIM makes affecting an individual physician’s certification can have career-altering consequences. That’s why the policy prioritizes being thorough and fair every step of the way, and when applied does so in a manner that takes context and individual factors into account.
Of one thing we are all certain: the COVID vaccine is safe and effective. Through September 20, there have been 386 million doses of the vaccine administered in the US; the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system received 7,899 reports of death (0.0020%) among people who received a COVID vaccine, which does not necessarily mean the vaccine caused the death. That’s infinitesimal compared to the more than 690,000 American lives that the virus has taken as of late September 2021.
With incontrovertible evidence such as this to guide practice, the community of physicians that composes ABIM must feel obliged to recommend vaccination as a first-line strategy for COVID prevention.
That’s why we are calling on all ABIM Board Certified physicians to provide accurate, evidence-based information to their patients and communities, and continuing to use the valuable credential of board certification to distinguish those who do from those who don’t.
Thank you for all you continue to do every day for patients everywhere.
Richard J. Baron, MD
ABIM President & CEO