Legal advocacy

AOA files suit against ABIM

The lawsuit challenges an ABIM policy that effectively requires ACGME residency program directors to be certified by the ABIM, unfairly disadvantaging AOBIM-certified osteopathic physicians.

On Thursday, the AOA released a statement on a new lawsuit challenging an ABIM policy that unfairly disadvantages osteopathic physicians. The full statement is below:

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and seven individual physicians, who serve as ACGME program directors in internal medicine residency training programs or internal medicine subspecialty fellowships, have filed suit against the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit challenges a policy announced by the ABIM that states program directors will only be permitted to qualify their residents for the ABIM exam if the program director is certified by the ABIM.

“In other words, program directors who are certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine (AOBIM) must either become certified by the ABIM or lose the ability to qualify their residents for ABIM certification,” said Josh Prober, JD, AOA General Counsel and Senior Vice President. “As a result of this policy, internal medicine program directors are being pressured by their hospitals to become ABIM certified or lose their jobs.”

Criteria for service as a program director are set by the ACGME and the individual institution that is home to the residency program. AOBIM-certified DOs are fully qualified to serve as residency program directors within the ACGME accreditation system.

The ABIM’s rule pushes programs to seek ABIM-certified physicians, disenfranchising physicians who are certified by the AOBIM. Further, AOBIM-certified program directors will be forced to seek ABIM certification to fulfill the critical role of qualifying their graduates, DOs and MDs, for board certification.  In addition, residents will effectively be directed toward ABIM rather than AOBIM certification because of the competitive disadvantages for AOBIM diplomates created by this rule.

“When an ACGME-qualified program director deems a resident has met the ACGME requirements for program completion and graduation, this is synonymous with attesting to the residency graduate’s qualification for seeking board certification from whichever board they choose,” said AOA CEO Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD. “A program director’s requirements to educate, train and evaluate their residents is defined by the ACGME and their ability to fulfill those duties is confirmed by their employer. Neither is under the purview of a certifying body.”

There is no data suggesting or confirming that AOBIM-certified program directors are less qualified or effective than ABIM-certified program directors. The AOA and individual physicians have asked the court to enter an injunction barring the ABIM from implementing its requirement. The AOA and individual plaintiffs are also asking the court to award compensatory and other available damages for AOA as compensation for the injuries caused by ABIM.

“The only purpose served by the ABIM requirement is to create a competitive advantage for the ABIM,” said Dr. Klauer. “This is harmful to program directors, residents and our graduate medical education system at-large. AOA leadership and our entire Board of Trustees stand united in support of our osteopathic colleagues.”

Related reading:

Osteopathic medical profession fights back after CNN, MSNBC mischaracterize DOs

Utah Medical Association denounces discrimination against osteopathic physicians and students


  1. Michael Swanson

    The ABIM and the AOBIM are separate and distinct organizations, each with their own bylaws and regulations. If AOBIM certified individuals want recognition by the ABIM, then they should complete the ABIM certification process. There is a very long history of separate certification processes that cannot be simply undone or ignored. As a retired D.O., I think that the suit is ridiculous. The AOA wants to be separate, yet it doesn’t want to be separate.

    1. Amber

      From the ACOI:
      “The ABIM stands alone as the only specialty board that does not recognize osteopathic board certification as equivalent.

      The direct impact of this policy is that program directors who are certified by the AOBIM must either become certified by the ABIM or they will lose the ability to attest to the training of their residents who wish to sit for initial ABIM certification. Absent either a change in the ABIM policy, or the attainment and maintenance of ABIM certification, AOBIM-certified program directors will no longer be able to serve in this critical role.”

  2. Stephen Morse, DO

    I support the lawsuit because I was a program director until I got pushed aside as unqualified because I was not ACGME certified! Bravo to the AOA!

  3. Dr. Matthew

    Here is the deal, why is AOA suing ABIM, why not sue the hospitals that do not recognize AOBIM. And, why does ABIM get to set up rules and policy now that AOA GME and ACGME has merged.

    This is something that must be set by ACGME, not ABIM, so I am confused.

  4. Dr. Matthew

    Also, is bout time we wake up and roll back the priveliges that the mid-level providers are abusing.

    An AOA GME graudate with a full DO medical school residency cannot be on a hosptial staffing, But, CRNA, PA and NP can be on the staff.

    Is a doctor with full medical schooling and full residency and less that qualified than CRNA, PA and NP? Really?

    Time to wake up!

    This is a side topic.

    1. Nicole

      Exactly!!! Barring AOBIM program directors from fulfilling their roles and subsequently affecting the residency programs and graduates further allows less qualified “providers” to take the place of these medical school graduates who need board certification for medical practice in many realms…

  5. Dan

    If the AOA would like to see higher rates of AOA board certification, allow FPs that work full time in the ED to challenge the EM boards. If I’m good enough to work in a rural hospital with no specialty backup in a pandemic, why should I not be able to work in an academic center where I don’t have to worry about delivering a baby in the middle of the night with no OB or treat trauma with no trauma surgeon? This ongoing paradox affects way more physicians than this recent lawsuit. My EM boarded colleagues agree… at least in person.

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