American Academy of Emergency Medicine

AAEM Opposes Board Certification Waiver at Illinois Department of Public Health

AAEM Board Member Tom Scaletta, MD FAAEM sent the following letter to the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, John Lumpkin, MD. The AAEM Board of Directors strongly opposes the board certification waiver that the Illinois Department of Public Health has instituted. AAEM continues its position that Emergency Physician Board Certification is in the public's best interest.

Dear Dr. Lumpkin,

I am writing on behalf of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) and, like you, as an ABEM-certified Illinoisan. As you are aware, AAEM is a non-profit, democratic, emergency physician society with a central mission of improving the quality of emergency medical care. We firmly believe that Emergency Medicine is best conducted by physicians who have achieved certification by either the American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) or the American Osteopathic Board of Emergency Medicine (AOBEM). There is much objective evidence supporting this conviction.

We also support the chief goal of the Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) program B improving emergency medical care for children across country. Many of our members have voluntarily participated in the process of understanding and meeting the requirements for gaining Illinois EMSC accreditation.

We are dismayed that the IDPH recently approved a waiver regarding physician qualifications for EMSC certification. This change allows physicians that have not completed a residency training program and do not qualify for the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) boards (or those deemed equivalent by the ABMS) to care for critically ill children. Hospitals that value board-certification and achieved Emergency Departments Approved for Pediatrics (EDAP) status have been duped by this criteria change, which did not allow participating hospitals, emergency physicians, nor community members an opportunity to comment on your department's decision.

The origin of the IDPH waiver was the Illinois EMSC Facility Recognition Task Force, which met on November 17, 2000. Those minutes reflect that "Carolyn Zonia, as representative of ICEP, requested to present to the committee, for consideration and discussion, formal waiver requests for six physicians from Northwest Community Healthcare. They request a waiver from needing to be Board Certified by ABEM or AOBEM, and to accept the certification of BCEM." The hospital in question is not a low-volume, rural hospital that simply cannot attract board-certified physicians.

Standby Emergency Department for Pediatrics (SEDP), a subordinate designation to EDAP exists. This should become the highest level of EMSC accreditation for hospitals that cannot or will not staff continually their emergency departments with at least one board-certified physician assigned to the most critical cases.

It is fortunate that you did not consider ICEP's request to recognize BCEM as a legitimate EM board. Recently, The Federal Court in Sacramento, CA, has upheld a law limiting to those physicians possessing an ABMS or board certification deemed "equivalent" by the ABMS the right to advertise that they are "board certified." As you know, BCEM is a non-ABMS board and passing it off as a legitimate emergency medicine board is dangerous.

Please contact me at (708) 763-2227 so that we may further discuss the views of AAEM and work toward a mutually satisfying compromise on this issue.


Tom Scaletta,
MD, FAAEM Member, AAEM Board of Directors