In October, more than 250 emergency physicians gathered at the ACEP Council Meeting in Seattle. More than 30 resolutions were considered, debated and voted on. One dealt with the issue of Fellow status for a small group of physicians, many of whom helped found the specialty of emergency medicine.
Fellow status is a class of ACEP membership that was first established in 1982 to honor members who made a special contribution to the College and the specialty of emergency medicine. For the past 21 years the requirements have included active membership status for three continuous years, board certification by ABEM (AOBEM and ABP certification for pediatric emergency physicians were added later), and additional service to the specialty. In October, the Council created an alternate pathway to allow the specialty to honor the first wave of emergency physicians. The eligibility criteria for members using this pathway are considerably stricter and will apply only to a small number of our colleagues.
ACEP’s policy and position regarding residency training and board certification has not changed. It is the College’s position that, as of the year 2000, the only legitimate way to begin the practice of emergency medicine is through training in an emergency medicine residency program followed by ABEM or AOBEM certification.
There is a small subset of valued ACEP members who have spent untold hours advancing emergency medicine but who will never be eligible to sit for the ABEM exam. These individuals will eventually retire and leave the practice of emergency medicine to the next generation of board certified and residency trained emergency physicians. Their contributions have been very significant to the development of our specialty and they will continue to play an important role in our workforce for at least another decade. The College has been clear in its support of this group which is often referred to as legacy emergency physicians.
Since the changes were made that linked ACEP membership eligibility to residency training and board certification, many have questioned the rational for maintaining the ABEM requirement for Fellow status. They believed that this requirement prevented the College from appropriately honoring the career contributions of a number of legacy emergency physicians, including founders such as Dr. John Weigenstein and Dr. John Rupke.
Over the past two years, a group of concerned members used the democratic process within ACEP to call attention to this issue and offer a solution. Working with individual members, state chapters, sections, and through the ACEP Council, they pressed their message that providing an alternate route to Fellow status for this unique subset of members was the right thing to do.
Through the efforts of this group, consensus was reached between such diverse groups as the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association, our young physician members, academicians, past ACEP leaders and others. In the end, the Council vote was nearly unanimous in favor of this alternate pathway to Fellow status.
We look forward to honoring a small group of new Fellows who qualify under this alternate pathway at our 40th anniversary at Scientific Assembly in Chicago. It is the right time and the right place to recognize those physicians who have been so important to the development of our specialty.
Linda Lawrence, MD, is the current president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)