My Dermatologist is Better than Yours. You can insert whatever medical specialty you like into the sentence. Mine is better! Sound like something you’d hear on the playground? Sure. My five-year-old daughter started kindergarten in August and we are already starting to hear similar phrases. But, unlike most things you hear on the playground, my doctor really is better. How do I know? I checked!
Medicine has evolved considerably since you visited your barber to remove a skin lesion. My grandfather, Albert Rath Sr, graduated from medical school in 1939, did a one-year internship, and opened his medical practice as a General Practitioner (GP). By the time my father, Albert Rath Jr, graduated from medical school in 1970, the majority of physicians were entering residency training after internship and “specializing”. At the time of my graduation, the U.S. military was the only route to take if one wanted to enter practice without residency specialization. To the best of my knowledge, all services now require specialty training within a few years of completion of internship.
Sound involved? It is. Most physicians have a minimum of 24 years of education prior to entering unsupervised practice. Twelve years of primary education (thirteen if you count kindergarten), four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school, and three to seven years of residency. Sub-specialties require additional years of fellowship training. The end result: a physician that is board-eligible, or has permission to sit for specialty boards to verify that enough information stuck during the years of education. After you pass your written, and for some specialties, oral boards you can legally advertise that you are board certified. The extra initials after MD or DO are usually shorthand for the board specialty. Board certified anesthesiologist? D.A.B.A. Board certified family practitioner? F.A.A.F.P. Board certified dermatologist? F.A.A.D.
How did I check to see if my dermatologist was board certified? www.docboard.org/nm/ is the website for the organization many state medical boards have contracted for credentials verification. Substitute /tx instead of /nm if your doc practices in Texas. Enter the physician’s name and discover where they trained as well as their specialty. Most state medical boards don’t verify board certification, so that requires a trip to www.abms.org, the American Board of Medical Specialties site and a short login (anyone can create an account in about a minute). Osteopathic physicians have their own boards and are the easiest to find at www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/find-a-do.
Still have questions? Find out if your doc has hospital privileges. State medical boards only act when they receive a complaint while the local medical community does a good job of policing their own if the physician has hospital privileges. Joan Pelkey, Medical Staff Affairs Manager at Lincoln County Medical Center does an excellent job of keeping the physicians straight and is a good resource in Lincoln County.
More questions? Ask around. This town is called Rumor-doso for a reason. Our community is small enough and you can always find someone willing to talk.
Disclaimer: Dr Stephen Rath, MD, DABA is a board certified anesthesiologist as well as the owner and medical director of Fusion Medical Spa located in Ruidoso, NM. He is not an expert on medical education, but he will be happy to recount the trials and tribulations he has encountered during his 24 years of education.