As a Member Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the American Board of Surgery (ABS) is part of a community that is focused on improving health care by elevating the discipline of specialty medicine through board certification. But we are part of a much larger professional medical community that fosters individuals beginning with their education and training. Two recent events illustrate just how important it is for Member Boards to reach out and work with external stakeholders to address issues that impact the ability of board certified physicians to fulfill their professional goals.
The first is the merger between ABS and the Surgical Council on Resident Education (SCORE®), whose mission is to improve the education of residents in general surgery and related specialties through the development of a national curriculum. SCORE is a nonprofit consortium formed in 2006 by seven principal organizations involved in surgical education in the United States. ABS remained the major sponsor of the SCORE project until 2012 when SCORE incorporated as a separate non-profit entity. Since then, SCORE has earned increasing respect and reach in the surgical education community, consistently attracting roughly 96 percent of the allopathic general surgery residency training programs as subscribers. It also recently expanded to more than 60 international residency programs and numerous subspecialties and fellowships. Because of our shared commitment to trainee education and assessment, ABS proposed a merger to enable our organizations to more closely collaborate in the development of the surgical curriculum that drives certification assessment processes. Ultimately, surgical residents and fellows will benefit by receiving the best possible training.
“Our work with SCORE and participation in the parental leave discussion are perfect examples of how, working alongside our key stakeholders, the boards can help inform comprehensive policies that support board certified physicians and the greater medical community.”
For most of these individuals, the years of residency and fellowship coincide with the critical years for starting and raising a family, which brings me to my second example. Residents and fellows are routinely asked to work 80 hours a week during pregnancy, spend long hours on their feet, and return to work within weeks of childbearing. Society at large now recognizes the need for both parents to participate in early child rearing, both for equity and family wellness. Furthermore, the previously accepted model of residents/fellows using all their vacation days for parental leave is now viewed as unreasonable.
Due to the long duration of post-graduate medical education, other life issues occur as well. That is why leave policies during residency and fellowship should consider Family Medical Leave Act-like family events such as caring for oneself during a personal illness or caring for a close family member.
To enable surgical residents/fellows to exceed their professional goals without sacrificing their personal ones, ABS recently revised its leave policies. We allow averaging and accrual to maximize flexibility around time away from training as needed. The board also has several policies in place to encourage trainees to take the time they need while still fulfilling their training requirements. These include short extensions of training up to eight weeks while still being admissible to the certification process, extending training for up to 12 months for any purpose, and adding an additional two weeks of time away from training up to twice during residency for all new parents as well as for personal illness or care of a first-degree relative.
In February, ABMS and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education convened individuals from health care systems and medical schools across the country to address the issue of parental and family leave on a larger scale at its co-sponsored Parental Leave Workshop. I had the pleasure of participating and believe the continued conversation and exploration of solutions to this issue will be of great value to our residents/fellows and their families as well as our patients.
Our work with SCORE and participation in the parental leave discussion are perfect examples of how, working alongside our key stakeholders, the boards can help inform comprehensive policies that support board certified physicians and the greater medical community. I look forward to further opportunities to demonstrate how, working together, we can meet the vision of Higher Standards. Better Care.