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  • Shenary J. Cotter, MD

What's a Board, and what does it certify?

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

Gainesville Direct Primary Care Physicians proudly promotes the Board Certification status of myself and my partner, Althea Tyndall-Smith MD. But what does this mean, and why should you care?


For physicians, Board Certification is a designation that requires three steps. The first two steps take a minimum of 11 years, and include a four year bachelor degree, four years of medical school, and a residency (apprenticeship training) of at least 3 years. The last step is an ongoing process that can be revoked in any 3 year period during which the ongoing criteria are not continuously met.


Additionally, physicians may complete a Fellowship in a specialty area beyond initial residency. For example, a Family Medicine physician who completed that 3 year post-medical school residency can do an additional 2 years and obtain the opportunity to sit for a Board Certification examination in Integrative Medicine, or Palliative Care, or Obesity Medicine. There are many others, as well.


The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) oversees these certifications. There is a failure rate for the Board Examinations. For Family Medicine physicians, the examination requires weeks to months of additional study preparation, must be repeated a minimum of every 10 years and includes 360 questions that must be answered in 4 separate blocks of 100 minutes each.


Other types of healthcare professionals may also be "Board Certified." What is important to know is that there is not one "Board" that certifies different healthcare professionals with the same requirements. For example, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) may take an examination after two years (this varies) of post-bachelor degree education that board certifies them in Family Practice. The board that certifies them as such is a nursing board. An APRN who passes this examination in the area of Family Practice Nursing may self-descsribe as "Board Certified in Family Practice."


Other healthcare professionals who may be board certified include chiropractors, holistic healthcare practitioners, naturopathic doctors, and accupuncture practitioners. Each of these professionals will have certified under an entirely separate board than the ABMS.


Gainesville Direct Primary Care Physicians support and encourage our patients to explore all healthcare forms that have been shown by evidence to not be harmful and to help for the condition that it claims to help. We enjoy working with many different types of heatlhcare professionals and actively seek non-medication modalities to improve our patients' health, through what we offer as well as through our allied healthcare professionals. We recognize that there is everything to be gained by encouraging our patients to take responsibility for their health by exploring the breadth of what healthcare has to offer today. We also encourage our patients to understand exactly who is caring for them, and the qualifications.




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