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Academic Conflict of Interest

The following applies to members of all ABIM Governance and other entities, including but not limited to the ABIM Board of Directors; the ABIM Council, Specialty Boards; Advisory Committees, Approval Committees; Item-Writing Task Force members and mentors; and standard setting panels, referred to collectively as “members.”

ABIM recognizes that individuals who serve on its Board of Directors; Council, Specialty Boards; Advisory Committees, Approval Committees, item-Writing Task Force members and mentors, and standard setting panels 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 one year thereafter with the exception of Item-Writing Task Force members and mentors for whom this one-year period does not apply. 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 in programs designed to prepare individuals for those examinations could create the perception of unfair advantage to program participants. Specifically, those who develop ABIM examinations or other assessments 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 Approval Committees and item-writing task forces generally do not have any direct knowledge about the content of other assessments offered by ABIM, and some members of the Board of Directors, the ABIM Council, Specialty and Subspecialty Boards, and Advisory Committees do not work directly on any examinations or other assessments,, 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. See Guideline #3’s exception for program directors/core clinical faculty. 
  2. Members may organize, direct, teach or develop content or questions for courses, self-assessment programs or products, or other educational activities that are not intended for and would not be viewed as appropriate for exam preparation. Members must comply with guidelines #7 and #8.
  3. Members who serve as program directors or clinical faculty for internal medicine and subspecialty training programs are eligible to serve on ABIM Governance. ABIM recognizes that program directors and clinical faculty are responsible for assisting with trainees’ preparation for ABIM examinations. They may, therefore, participate in educational activities listed as “board review” or “board preparation” that are offered only internally to their trainees. 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. They may teach to topics only, not specific exam questions. These members must also comply with Guidelines #6, #7 and #8.
  4. 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.
  5. Members must not participate in the development and/or review of formal in-training examinations in Internal Medicine or its subspecialties.
  6. Members may speak 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. Providing information about ABIM Exam Blueprints, which are made available on ABIM’s public website, is always permitted.
  7. 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). An example of disclosure language that complies with guidelines is illustrated in the sample below.
  8. Members must not use or allow others to use their ABIM affiliations for advertising or promoting any particular educational program or publication.
  9. Members must adhere to these Conflict of Interest policies during their board or committee service and for one year following the completion of their board or committee service, with the exception of Item-Writing Task Force members and mentors.

These guidelines are not meant to restrict normal activities as an educator or researcher, including lecturing or 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 Language: Roger Bush, MD

    Dr. Roger Bush is a member of the ABIM Board of Directors. To protect the integrity of Board Certification, ABIM strictly enforces the confidentiality and its ownership of ABIM exam content, and Dr. Bush has agreed to keep ABIM exam questions confidential. No ABIM exam questions are shared or otherwise disclosed.



    Amended and approved by the Board of Directors on February 5, 2023