As a cardiologist I was initially torn about whether to keep my Internal Medicine certification in addition to my specialty because the thought of taking the traditional, 10-year exam was almost overwhelming. When I learned about the LKA, I decided to try it. The LKA builds studying and learning into the questions and is far less stressful than studying for and then taking a day-long exam, which made it more feasible for me to remain certified in Internal Medicine.
I practice in an inpatient setting, so I often manage internal medicine issues with my cardiology patients. And in the clinic, I encourage my patients to have a primary care doctor, but a lot of them say, “I see you every six months, can’t you just do it?” And so, I get asked a lot of questions and it’s important for me to stay updated on my internal medicine knowledge.
I like that the LKA allows people to choose what works for them. I wait until I have some time, block out a couple of hours and usually do all 30 questions in one or two sittings. I don’t get stressed about doing these questions every 90 days and I like the instant feedback and the explanations.
The clock also stops between questions, which allows me time to review something if I want to understand better. For some questions, I’ll take 5–10 minutes to read more, understand why I got the answers wrong and then move on to the next question.
One of the best ways to study is by doing questions, and with the LKA, you’re studying and learning at the same time. I think it’s also very true to clinical practice. The art of being a good doctor is sometimes knowing what you don’t know and when you need to look something up. You can do that in the four minutes allotted in the LKA with some flexibility built in through a time bank of 30 minutes each year that you can use occasionally if you need an extra minute or two. That adds to my ability to do the test and learn while doing it.
I also think the way it’s set up to test the my judgement as a physician in how I approach each question as well. You have to make these triage decisions on how to use your time and it’s something we do all the time in clinical medicine. It adds to the reality of the test.
I would say to anyone thinking about trying the LKA that there are not a lot of downsides. It’s very low stakes, you can try it and if you don’t like it you can unenroll and take the 10-year exam that year. It’s less stressful and more educational—and, at times, more enjoyable than I expected. It has helped me to keep my Internal Medicine certification and that’s something that I really value.
Dimitri C. Cassimatis, MD, FACC, serves on the ABIM Cardiovascular Disease Approval Committee for the traditional, 10-year MOC exam and initial certification exam. He is the Chief of the Department of Medicine at Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta, and co-directs the first-year medical student cardiovascular pathophysiology course at the Emory University School of Medicine.