Who Better to Do the Critical Work of Board Certification?

Have you ever wondered who writes the certification exam questions for pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists? For that matter, who decides which topics are included in exams? And who decides what the passing score is?

The answer is pediatricians themselves who are maintaining their certification and who represent a variety of practice types, geographic locations, ages, races, and genders.

More than 400 board-certified pediatricians volunteer at the ABP. Fewer than 110 full-time staff members work for the ABP — and only five are physicians. Consequently, the responsibility for certifying that pediatricians are up to date and can competently care for children is in the hands of pediatricians themselves.

Dr. Norman Ferrari“Who better to do the critical work involved with board certification than those who have gone through the process to be certified and stay certified?” says Norman Ferrari III, MD, Vice Dean for Medical Education and Chair of the Department of Medical Education at the West Virginia University School of Medicine. He currently serves on the ABP General Pediatrics Exam Committee and on the MOCA-Peds Task Force. “Certified pediatricians can be the best critics of the process and provide the constructive feedback to make continual improvements to the process.”

The ABP has more than 35 committees, subboards, task forces, and advisory groups, ranging from two to 15 members. Volunteers serve six-year terms and subsequently may be appointed to a different subboard or committee.

The 15-member Board of Directors, which is the ultimate governing body for the ABP, establishes policies, procedures, and requirements for ABP certification. This board, which includes two public members, defines the qualifications required of candidates applying for certification and determines the method, scope, and administration of the certifying examinations. It also establishes the policies for Maintenance of Certification (MOC) for pediatricians who have achieved initial certification. These directors have previously served the ABP in various capacities, giving them a clear understanding of the mission and operations of the ABP.

Five Board of Directors officers also sit on the ABP Foundation Board of Directors. They are joined by four other directors, including two public members. This Board approves the policies and priorities for research and strategic initiatives supported by the Foundation and often convenes meetings of experts to share collective expertise and promote innovation.

Dr. Egla Rabinovich with model David Godrich

Other committees tend to the administrative policies of the ABP, including approval of the operating budget, auditing finances, and reviewing and revising the charter and bylaws. One committee determines whether ABP volunteers have conflicts of interest (chaired by Dr. Egla Rabinovich, in photo). The MOC Committee has a substantial role in evaluating requirements and approving process improvements to continuing certification. The New Subspecialties Committee reviews applications for new subspecialties, such as the newest certificate offered by the ABP: Pediatric Hospital Medicine. The Research Advisory Committee oversees research and evaluation efforts supported by the ABP Foundation. The Education and Training Committee advises and assists the ABP on initiatives related to the education and training of pediatricians from medical school throughout practice.

The Credentials Committee adjudicates appeals by pediatricians whose certification has been revoked. The committee also reviews cases of unsatisfactory evaluations for clinical competence or professionalism during residency or fellowship and approves plans for remediation. If there are requests for deviations from usual training requirements and non-standard training pathways, this committee reviews them individually.

More than 150 pediatricians develop items for the initial certification and MOC exams. They serve on the General Pediatrics Examination Committee or one of the 15 subspecialty subboards. Subboard volunteers also serve as links between their subspecialty organizations and the ABP.

Other volunteer pediatricians help develop MOC Part 2 (Lifelong Learning and Self-Assessment) activities; participate in practice analyses that help determine test content outlines; and participate in standard-setting workshops.

Dr. Tony Woodward“Practicing pediatricians and subspecialists are the ones who understand medical content and the obligations we have to be transparent, reliable, and consistent,” says Tony Woodward, MD, MBA, Chief of the Division of Emergency Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Woodward chairs the ABP Emergency Medicine Subboard. “I believe it is helpful for the ABP to have national leaders and providers immersed in the process to be able to act as a conduit for information and advocate/champion for change for the large groups of diplomates [pediatricians] and students.”

In addition to the many committees and subboards, the ABP reaches out to pediatricians to get their opinions and feedback through channels that do not require years of commitment, including focus groups, surveys, pilot programs, and other opportunities.

Pediatricians can express their volunteer interests and availability using our online form.


Dr. Nancy Spector“You will make an impact in ensuring the optimal care of our patients. You will have the opportunity to influence how all of us work to maintain our competence as pediatricians as well as influence how future generations of pediatricians will be certified. We need to hear everyone’s voice in order to do the best possible work.”

Nancy Spector, MD
Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Dean for Faculty Development
Executive Director of the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Program
Drexel University College of Medicine

Dr. Folafoluwa Odetola“It is often said among the Yoruba people of Southwest Nigeria that ‘the solid wall without a crack won’t let a lizard in.’ Having pediatricians be the gatekeepers for the specialty of pediatrics is a reassuring beacon to the profession, patients, families, and the public in general, that a tight ship is being maintained. Pediatricians who have walked the path of pediatrics can vouch for their colleagues’ integrity, competence, and professionalism.”

Folafoluwa Odetola, MD, MPH
Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics
University of Michigan Medical School

Dr. Susanna McColley“I am currently on the MOC Committee and have witnessed all of the changes that make MOC less cumbersome, while still rigorous and robust. There is a lot of talk about the importance of joy in practice these days, and nothing gives pediatricians more joy than improving the care of their patients!”

Susanna McColley, MD
Professor of Pediatrics
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Associate Chief Research Officer for Clinical Trials
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Dr. Joseph St. Geme III“Volunteering for the ABP gives me a chance to have an impact on child health at a national level and to shape the process by which high-quality pediatric care is measured and recognized in the U.S. Also, I enjoy the opportunity to work with pediatric colleagues across the country on key pediatric issues, always learning from the knowledge and experience of these colleagues.”

Joseph St. Geme III, MD
Physician-in-Chief and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia