Our Story

It all began with an idea: establishing a system to assure the public that medical specialists are properly trained, and they continue learning new practices and treatments to provide better care. It meant creating some tough standards for education and evaluation. It also required forming a national system to enforce the standards and to identify qualified specialists in a way everyone can easily recognized.

The history of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) began during an extraordinary period in the development of specialty medicine. From the first conception of a specialty board in 1908, specialists have been coming together to advance the standards of their specialties through a national board system.

The creation of ABMS in 1933 naturally progressed from these early collaborations, providing a forum for discussing issues common to all specialties and firmly establishing the importance of graduate medical education and the recognition of specialists. In 1934, general qualifications and educational requirements for certification were outlined. Soon after these requirements were set, discussions began for how competence should be maintained throughout one’s career.

An Ongoing Process

Through the years, the process of board certification has been studied and revised to incorporate a broader and more comprehensive evaluation of physicians and specialists and their practices. Updated standards provide a comprehensive framework for Member Boards to design certification programs that support continuing professional development and help engage their physicians and specialists in activities relevant to their practice.

The medical specialty leaders of today are fueled by the same passion reminiscent of their forefathers who created ABMS 90 years ago: ensuring specialist competence, protecting patient safety, and sharing information about the certification process and the specialists who are board certified.

ABMS Member Boards

The primary function of each ABMS Member Board is to certify physicians in their primary specialty and subspecialty areas and to support the professional development of those board certified physicians throughout their career. This is accomplished through a comprehensive process involving educational requirements, professional peer evaluation, examination, and professional development.

The governing body of each individual specialty board comprises specialists qualified in the particular field represented by that board. Members of the governing bodies include representatives from among the national specialty organizations in related fields.

The ABMS Member Boards and the year approved as part of ABMS include:


Founding Members:
American Board of Dermatology
American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology
American Board of Ophthalmology
American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery


American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
American Board of Pediatrics
American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
American Board of Radiology
American Board of Urology


American Board of Internal Medicine
American Board of Pathology


American Board of Surgery


American Board of Neurological Surgery


American Board of Anesthesiology
American Board of Plastic Surgery


American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation


American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery
American Board of Preventive Medicine


American Board of Family Medicine


American Board of Allergy and Immunology
American Board of Nuclear Medicine
American Board of Thoracic Surgery


American Board of Emergency Medicine


American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics