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Academic Conflict of Interest

Amended and Approved by the Board of Directors
October 18, 2016

The following applies to members of all ABIM boards, committees and other entities, including but not limited to the ABIM Board of Directors; Council, Specialty and Subspecialty Boards; exam writing committees; medical knowledge self-assessment product committees; and standard setting panels, referred to collectively as “members.”

ABIM recognizes that individuals who serve on its Board of Directors; Council, Specialty and Subspecialty Boards; and exam writing and medical knowledge self-assessment product committees are asked to serve the medical community in many ways. Indeed, in most circumstances, ABIM is well-served by the diverse academic activities of its members. Members must recognize, however, that some educational activities can create a real, potential or perceived conflict of interest relating to knowledge of questions on ABIM assessments. Members must follow the guidelines in this document regarding educational activities during ABIM service and for a period of two years thereafter. It is the responsibility of each member to report potential and actual sources of personal academic conflicts of interest and to comply with the policies and guidelines described below.

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Rationale

Protecting the integrity of ABIM examinations and other assessments is absolutely vital to the successful work of ABIM. Involvement of those who contribute to ABIM examinations and assessments in educational programs could create the perception of unfair advantage to program participants. Specifically, those who develop ABIM examinations or medical knowledge self- assessment products or who influence ABIM policies must not participate in educational activities that are advertised as preparation for ABIM secure exams in their specialty or any other ABIM area of certification. Although members of specific exam committees generally do not have any direct knowledge about the content of other examinations offered by ABIM, and some members of the Board of Directors, the Council and the Specialty/Subspecialty Boards do not work directly on any examinations, the broader physician and health care communities do not make a distinction between these varied types of service to ABIM. Therefore, the following guidelines apply to all members. In addition, ABIM staff is subject to the Conflict of Interest policies set forth in the ABIM Staff Code of Ethics and Business Conduct. The President and CEO, as a member of the Board of Directors, is subject to the guidelines contained in this policy as well as to the Staff Code of Ethics and Business Conduct.

Guidelines

  1. Members must not organize, direct, teach or develop content or questions for courses, review books, self-assessment programs or products or other educational activities that are explicitly advertised as preparation for any Certification or Maintenance of Certification examinations in Internal Medicine or its subspecialties (e.g., courses or other educational activities with the phrases “board review” or “board preparation” in their names, that list preparation for ABIM examinations in the description, and that specifically identify those preparing for ABIM examinations as a target audience). In addition to lecturing, this includes the development of course outlines, printed or electronic materials, Web-based or other computer programs, or audiovisual resources that support exam preparation activities.
  2. Members may organize, direct, teach or develop content or questions for courses, self- assessment programs or products, or other educational activities that focus on recent advances or controversies in a field. Participation is limited to courses and activities that are not intended for and would not be viewed as appropriate for exam preparation. Members must comply with guidelines #6 and #7.
  3. Members may write self-assessment questions for the purposes of CME to accompany their scholarly work (e.g., journal articles they have authored, lectures); in doing so, they should disclose their role with ABIM, and affirm that no secure exam questions or confidential content are shared or otherwise disclosed.
  4. Members must not participate in the development of formal in-training examinations in Internal Medicine or its subspecialties.
  5. Members must not teach in courses or learning sessions sponsored by subspecialty societies or any other organizations that are based on ABIM’s Self-Assessment of Medical Knowledge modules. This does not apply to speaking about the general, publicly disclosed requirements of ABIM's Certification or Maintenance of Certification programs as a part of these courses or learning sessions, or in any other setting.
  6. Members must identify their role with ABIM when participating in all permissible educational activities and affirm to participants that they are adhering to the same Pledge of Honesty that applies to all ABIM candidates and diplomates (i.e., they will not share ABIM secure examination questions or confidential content). Examples of disclosure language that complies with this guidelines are illustrated in the samples below.
  7. Members must not use or allow others to use their ABIM affiliations for advertising or promoting any particular educational program or publication.
  8. Members must adhere to these Conflict of Interest policies during their board or committee service and for two years following the completion of their board or committee service.

These guidelines are not meant to restrict normal activities as an educator or researcher, including lecturing, writing or editing for journals or texts, except when there is an explicit indication that the material covered is designed to help pass an ABIM secure examination.

Oversight and Administration

If uncertain about these guidelines, individuals are urged to seek the advice of the ABIM Conflict of Interest staff, the Conflict of Interest Subcommittee or the Chair of the Board. Questions about activities not clearly covered by these guidelines will be taken to the Conflict of Interest Subcommittee Chair, who may choose to convene the full Conflict of Interest Subcommittee; members may also request a full Conflict of Interest Subcommittee review.

Decisions of the Conflict of Interest Subcommittee concerning permitted and prohibited activities are to be considered final, and the Conflict of Interest Subcommittee may recommend to the Governance Committee sanctions for members found to be in violation of the Academic Conflict of Interest Policy or a decision of the Conflict of Interest Subcommittee, up to and including removal from board service or revocation of certification.

Examples of Disclosure Language

SAMPLE Disclosure for Public Speaking: David Coleman, MD

  • I am a current member of the ABIM Board of Directors and of the Internal Medicine Exam Committee.
  • To protect the integrity of Board Certification, ABIM enforces strict confidentiality and ownership of exam content.
  • As a member of the Board of Directors and of an ABIM exam committee, I agree to keep exam information confidential.
  • As is true for any ABIM candidate who has taken an exam for Certification, I have signed the Pledge of Honesty in which I have agreed not to share ABIM exam questions with others.
  • No exam questions will be disclosed in my presentation.

SAMPLE Disclosure for Publications: David Coleman, MD

Dr. David Coleman is a member of the ABIM Board of Directors and of the ABIM Internal Medicine Exam Committee. To protect the integrity of Board Certification, ABIM strictly enforces the confidentiality and its ownership of ABIM exam content, and Dr. Coleman has agreed to keep ABIM exam questions confidential. No ABIM exam questions are shared or otherwise disclosed in this article.