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ABIM knows that we have many physicians whose lives have been upended by recent natural disasters. If you live or work near an affected area, we understand that the weather may have impacted your ability to take your Fall 2017 exam as scheduled. We have developed a series of options to help you get through this process as smoothly as possible. If you have any questions, please call us at 1-800-441-ABIM (2246) or email request@abim.org.

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Gastroenterology-Transplant Hepatology Pilot Program

The following information was submitted by the Gastroenterology-Transplant Hepatology Pilot Oversight Committee

For additional information about the pilot, visit the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) or contact Oren Fix at oren.fix@swedish.org.

FAQs

  1. What are the benefits of the pilot?
  2. For individual fellows, a benefit is the use of a competency-based model to reduce training time required to become certified in both gastroenterology (GI) and transplant hepatology. These fellows are likely to enjoy increased attention from program directors and other core faculty. Individual training programs benefit from a highly motivated and focused fellow. Many GI fellowship programs are seeing an increase in applicants with an interest in hepatology who are seeking programs that offer the pilot pathway. Transplant hepatology was one of the first specialties to formalize and implement competency-based training. Individual fellows and programs benefit from pioneering this new training paradigm by advising the AASLD and ABIM about best practices. Lessons learned from the pilot will undoubtedly be used in other competency-based frameworks. If successful, the pilot pathway will become an accepted training track toward GI and transplant hepatology certification. Most importantly, employers, patients and society will benefit from a group of providers who have demonstrated competence in GI and transplant hepatology through a rigorous training program utilizing innovative assessment methods and established competency standards.

  3. Did ACGME issue an official approval letter for the pilot?
  4. The pilot functions via ABIM-granted individual exceptions to training and therefore does not require ACGME Internal Medicine Review Committee approval.

  5. Are there other ABIM pilot programs?
  6. Yes. ABIM has approved three competency-based medical education pilots including GI/transplant hepatology. The other pilots are geriatrics/palliative medicine and internal medicine/cardiology. All three pilots differ substantially in goals and structure but share the common goal of using competency-based assessments in innovative ways.

  7. How long will the pilot last before it will become a standard training pathway for GI and transplant hepatology?
  8. This has not been determined. A final decision about the fate of the pilot and whether it should become a standard training pathway may take several more years.

  9. How will the GI/transplant hepatology pilot affect recruiting, call schedules, continuity clinics, rotation schedules, funding, etc. within the existing three-year GI fellowship?
  10. These concerns are program-specific and cannot be answered across the board; it will be an ongoing learning process. Although each individual program has “specifics” that may not be shared by other programs, open communication between program directors will be beneficial to share experiences, preempt problems and enhance problem solving of such issues across programs. In particular, funding for the pilot fellow is program-specific and may be part of the complement of GI fellows or through other mechanisms. Many GI programs are finding that the pilot is a desired option for many applicants and can be used as a recruiting tool for highly qualified applicants interested in a career in transplant hepatology. Going forward, the experience/data gathered from the leading pilot programs will constitute the threshold from which joining programs may build and benefit, to better plan for and execute the pilot year.

  11. Will fellows enrolled in the GI/transplant hepatology pilot be eligible to sit for the ABIM Transplant Hepatology Certification examination?
  12. Yes. Candidates will be informed by the ABIM of their enrollment in the pilot and receive documentation that they are being granted an exception to existing ABIM training requirements that will allow them to sit for the Certification exam in both Gastroenterology and Transplant Hepatology upon successful completion of the pilot.

  13. When can a pilot fellow take the Gastroenterology and Transplant Hepatology ABIM Certification exams?
  14. The pilot fellow will be eligible to sit for both specialty Certification examinations after completing the three-year pilot (third year of GI). As per current requirements, the fellow cannot register for the Transplant Hepatology exam until passing the Gastroenterology exam. Because the Transplant Hepatology exam is offered every other year, in some cases, the pilot fellow will need to wait two years after completion of training to take the Transplant Hepatology exam. If requested, ABIM can provide a letter attesting to completion of the unique training pathway while the fellow is waiting to take the exam if needed for prospective employers.

  15. Can a physician who completed two years of GI fellowship training and one year of transplant hepatology training outside of this pilot program become certified in Transplant Hepatology?
  16. No. Please contact the ABIM directly for questions about your specific situation.

  17. Does the institutional GME office need to approve the pilot?
  18. Since the pilot program may be perceived as a new training track within GI, it is best to involve the Designated Institutional Official (DIO) and GME Committee early. The application requires the program to attest that the DIO and GME Committee have approved the pilot program.

  19. Can a GI program that is not currently associated with an ACGME-accredited transplant hepatology fellowship program participate in the pilot program?
  20. No, unless your institution applies for accreditation for a transplant hepatology fellowship program through ACGME.

  21. My GI program is not associated with an ACGME-accredited transplant hepatology fellowship program. Can a fellow transfer to another program after the second year in order to participate in the pilot?
  22. A transfer may be considered only in unique and extenuating circumstances. Requests for such an exception must be made to the Pilot Steering Taskforce in advance (before the application deadline) and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

  23. What do I need to do to prepare for the pilot?
  24. Fellows should inform their GI fellowship program director as early as possible of their interest, and program directors should notify the Pilot Steering Taskforce as early as possible (generally in the first year of GI fellowship). The prospective pilot fellow and both GI and transplant hepatology program directors are responsible for ensuring that most clinical GI requirements are completed by the end of the second year and that the prospective pilot fellow is on a trajectory to achieve competence in GI by the end of the third year, taking into account that the third year will be focused on development of competence in transplant hepatology. In practice, this means that most, if not all, clinical GI requirements must be completed by the end of the second year. It is not necessary to include five months of general hepatology training in the first two years but some hepatology training is required before entering the pilot year.

  25. How do I apply for the pilot?
  26. The GI and transplant hepatology program directors and prospective pilot fellow need to formally apply to the Pilot Steering Taskforce during the fellow's second year. An announcement will be made on the Program Directors' Listserv when applications are available. At that time, application materials are forwarded to program directors upon request from the Pilot Steering Taskforce. The Pilot Steering Taskforce will review the application materials and issue formal approval, at which time the fellow's name will be forwarded to ABIM for tracking and certification purposes. This is not a competitive process; all fellows who meet the criteria will be approved.

  27. Can a fellow be approved for the pilot before or during the first year of GI fellowship?
  28. No. The criteria for entry into the pilot include a determination by the GI Clinical Competency Committee that the fellow is on a trajectory to achieve competence in GI by the end of the third year. This generally cannot be determined prior to the start of GI fellowship and is best assessed late in the first year or early during the second year of fellowship. In cases where the fellow is not on a trajectory to achieve competence in GI by the end of the third year, as determined by his/her performance by the end of the first year or the beginning of the second year, that fellow will not be allowed to enroll in the pilot program.

  29. Can the GI Training Exam (GTE) be used as a selection criterion for entry into the pilot program?
  30. No. The GTE is a formative exam used for continuous improvement of the fellow and the program. It should not be used to justify promotions or deny advancement and it should not be used as a criterion for entry into the pilot program.

  31. Is a pilot fellow eligible to apply for the AASLD Advanced/Transplant Hepatology Fellowship Award?
  32. No, currently this award is for funding for fellows during a traditional 4th year transplant hepatology fellowship following three years of GI fellowship.

  33. If a program doesn’t apply now, can it participate in the future when an interested fellow is identified?
  34. Yes. A program should not apply unless and until it has an appropriate fellow. Programs and fellows are considered and approved on a case-by-case basis each year.

  35. What programs have participated in the program already?
  36. The following programs have participated or are currently participating in the pilot program. These programs may or may not participate in future years, depending on whether they have an appropriate fellow, and these are not the only programs that may participate in the future. Any program that has an ACGME-approved GI fellowship program and an ACGME-approved transplant hepatology fellowship program is eligible to participate. Prospective pilot fellows should check with individual GI or transplant hepatology fellowship programs directly to find out if they are offering this pilot pathway as an option.

    2012-13
    Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
    Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD
    Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY
    University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

    2013-14
    University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
    University Hospitals/Case Medical Center, Cleveland, OH
    Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA

    2014-15
    Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA
    University of California, San Francisco, CA
    Jackson Memorial Hospital/University of Miami, Miami, FL
    University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH
    Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY
    University of California, San Diego, CA
    University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
    University Hospitals/Case Medical Center, Cleveland, OH
    Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
    Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA

    2015-16
    Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY
    University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
    University of California, San Francisco, CA
    University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
    Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH
    Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD
    Emory University, Atlanta, GA
    Columbia, New York, NY
    Georgetown, Washington, DC
    Duke, Durham, NC
    Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA
    University of Washington, Seattle, WA
    Mayo Clinic Florida, Jacksonville, FL
    Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA

    2016-17
    Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY
    Emory University, Atlanta, GA
    Duke, Durham, NC
    Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA
    Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA
    University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
    Northwestern, Chicago, IL
    Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA
    University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD
    University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

  37. What are the reporting requirements for the pilot program?
  38. The transplant hepatology program director and the pilot fellow will each be required to complete surveys during the course of the pilot that includes the types and frequency of assessments used in reaching an evaluation of competence. These requirements are in addition to ACGME reporting requirements including Reporting Milestones. Pilot fellows must agree to some modest reporting expectations following their graduation from the pilot program (e.g., nature and location of subsequent faculty position, whether the graduating fellow remained in the field of transplant hepatology, etc.) and are required to provide contact information following graduation. The Pilot Steering Taskforce may request permission to contact the pilot fellow's chief/supervisor following graduation for assessment/feedback after the pilot fellow has been in practice for at least one year.

  39. What GI-specific activities can the pilot fellow participate in during the pilot year?
  40. We support the experience of the pilot fellow to ensure continued exposure to GI so that the fellow can continue to work toward achieving competence in GI and to facilitate passing the ABIM certification examination. These activities may include attendance and participation at GI conferences, participation in GI continuity clinic and GI call.

  41. Is the pilot fellow required to attend all GI and transplant hepatology conferences?
  42. No. The required attendance at conferences should not increase, but should be blended to reflect the required exposure to each specialty.

  43. Does a GI program with a pilot fellow and no 4th year transplant hepatology fellows still need a core curriculum and conferences just for the pilot fellow?
  44. Yes. The pilot fellow must meet the requirements of the accredited transplant hepatology fellowship even if there are no 4th year transplant hepatology fellows. This means the program must have a curriculum and conferences that are separate from the GI curriculum/conferences, as specified in the transplant hepatology program’s application submitted to ACGME.

  45. What GI-specific activities should be minimized/avoided during the pilot year?
  46. The pilot fellow should not participate in therapeutic endoscopy procedures or consultations and should not act as “chief GI fellow” during the pilot year.

  47. Does the pilot fellow need to complete the five months of required clinical hepatology training during the first two years of GI fellowship before beginning the pilot year?
  48. No. However, we expect that the fellow will engage in some general hepatology clinical training during the first 2 years of fellowship. There should be sufficient exposure to hepatology to gauge the fellow's level of interest in transplant hepatology, to be sure the fellow will commit to training in transplant hepatology and will remain in the field. There should be sufficient exposure to hepatology to provide the transplant hepatology program director with an indication of how the fellow will perform in the pilot program and that the fellow is appropriate for the pilot. In practice, we recommend at least 2-3 months of general hepatology clinical training before entering the third year.

  49. What about scholarly activity?
  50. We recognize this tradeoff between achieving clinical competency and pursuing scholarly activity. The pilot fellowship program is an intensive clinical track that will substantially decrease the time available to focus on research and other scholarly activities. This underscores the importance of selecting the appropriate fellow for the pilot program. Fellows who wish to focus on research may not be appropriate for the pilot program and should remain in the traditional track by completing three years of GI training before pursuing transplant hepatology training. This includes fellows funded by a T32 grant as there will not be sufficient time to fulfill requirements for research training and clinical GI training in a two-year period prior to starting a pilot year. Pilot fellows must still fulfill the ACGME requirement to participate in research or other scholarly activities and this requirement is included in the ACGME Subspecialty Reporting Milestones as a distinct subcompetency for all Internal Medicine subspecialties.

  51. Can a fellow on a T32 training grant participate in the pilot?
  52. No. See question 25: “What about scholarly activity?”

  53. How will the pilot impact the 4th year transplant hepatology fellowship?
  54. The pilot program is in the “testing phase,” and is not currently replacing the 4th year. The pilot was not designed to replace the 4th year track and may continue to co-exist in programs that have the capacity to train two or more transplant hepatology fellows per year.

  55. Why is the GI CCC chair required to sign the pilot application?
  56. One of the most important criteria for applying to the pilot program is that the program must attest to the applicant's developing competence and the trajectory of the applicant toward competence in GI by the end of their third year. The CCC is in the best position to attest to the applicant's competence and we therefore want to emphasize the importance of the role of the GI CCC chair in this process.

  57. Which program director will be required to submit Reporting Milestones to ACGME? Will the program need to submit two sets of Reporting Milestones?
  58. ACGME will only require Reporting Milestones for the pilot fellow to be completed by the transplant hepatology program director (in the winter and early summer reporting windows of the pilot year). This is a change from prior years. The Reporting Milestones should be completed with substantial input from the GI program director and the GI CCC, reflecting the competence of the pilot fellow in GI milestones during the third year. It is recommended that the GI program director participate in the transplant hepatology CCC meetings and/or the transplant hepatology program director participate in the GI CCC meetings when the pilot fellow is discussed.

  59. What is an EPA?
  60. “Entrustable Professional Activities (EPAs) are those professional activities that together constitute the mass of critical elements that operationally define a profession” (ten Cate O, Scheele F. Academic Medicine 2007;82:542-7). Supervising faculty assess the competence of a trainee through direct observation of the performance of these activities. Each EPA represents various competencies and milestones of professional development. Use of EPAs is the cornerstone of assessment within this competency-based medical education pilot.

  61. What is Mini-CEX?
  62. The ABIM Mini-Clinical Evaluation Exercise (Mini-CEX) is a 10-20 minute direct observation assessment or “snapshot” of a trainee-patient interaction. The faculty member provides timely and specific feedback to the trainee after each assessment of a trainee-patient encounter. The Mini-CEX need not assess a complete patient encounter and can be used to assess a specific part such as counseling, which may be most appropriate for fellows at this advanced level of training. The Mini-CEX (pdf) can be downloaded from ABIM's website and distributed for demonstration during faculty workshops, staff meetings, orientation and training sessions. The pilot requires that Mini-CEX be administered at least quarterly.

  63. Is a Transplant Hepatology Training Examination available?
  64. We are hopeful that we will be able to offer the first training exam to pilot and traditional transplant hepatology fellows this academic year.

  65. What is the HCV PIM? Is it a required assessment?
  66. ABIM PIMs (Practice Improvement Modules®) were Web-based tools that guided physicians through a review of patient data and supported the implementation of and/or reporting on a quality improvement (QI) plan for their practice. The HCV PIM was initially a required activity for the pilot. Due to rapid changes in HCV treatment, the PIM was revised for the pilot in 2014 but is no longer available online through ABIM. It is no longer a required assessment tool for the pilot program but the revised PIM is provided to program directors as an option. The Pilot Steering Taskforce recognizes there are many ways that a pilot fellow can demonstrate competence in practice assessment and will accept completion of an appropriate practice assessment or quality improvement project during the pilot year. If the HCV PIM is used, we suggest that the fellow abstract at least five charts at three months and nine months into the pilot as a means to demonstrate the trainee's ability to analyze, improve and change practice or patient care.

  67. Is simulation a required assessment tool?
  68. Fellows must participate in training using simulation (IV.A.3.b. of the ACGME Transplant Hepatology Program Requirements). Simulation does not require the use of high-tech models and can be as simple as simulating a patient case presentation with the trainee. Liver biopsies lend themselves well to training and assessment through simulation, but this is only one example of the use of simulation in transplant hepatology training.

  69. Are portfolios required for the pilot?
  70. Portfolios are not a required assessment tool for the pilot or for transplant hepatology training in general. Portfolios can be a useful assessment tool in both undergraduate and graduate medical education and can be used as a tool for trainees to record their accomplishments, reflect on their experiences and obtain formative feedback. In practice, portfolios may be difficult to implement in fellowship training. There are many platforms available and we are unable to recommend a specific platform.

  71. How will information regarding the pilot be disseminated and communication facilitated?
  72. Through the Transplant Hepatology Program Directors' Listserv and on the AASLD, AGA and ABIM websites.

  73. How many certificates should the pilot fellow receive from his/her program upon graduation?
  74. This is up to the individual program, but we recommend two certificates reflecting the achievement of competence in two distinct specialties, GI and transplant hepatology.

  75. Who is on the Pilot Steering Committee?
    • Chair, Oren Fix, MD, MSc, FACP, FAASLD, Swedish Medical Center, Seattle, WA
    • Steven Herrine, MD, FAASLD, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA
    • Ayman Koteish, MD, FAASLD, Florida Hospital Transplant Institute, Orlando, FL
    • Gautham Reddy, MD, FAASLD, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
    • Mark Russo, MD, MPH, FAASLD, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC
    • Richard Sterling, MD, MSc, FAASLD, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
  76. Where can I get more information?
  77. Talk to your transplant hepatology program director, go to the AASLD website or contact Oren Fix at oren.fix@swedish.org.

For Program Directors


  1. Do I need to request a fellow complement increase from the ACGME to participate in the pilot?
  2. If the pilot fellow takes up an already approved transplant hepatology fellow position, then no further action regarding fellow complement is needed. If your program intends to fill all approved transplant hepatology positions with 4th year fellows AND wishes to participate in the pilot during the same year, then you will need to justify this increase in transplant hepatology-trained fellows to the ACGME by applying for a temporary or permanent complement increase. The ACGME Internal Medicine Review Committee should not have an issue with this (the educational justification is the pilot program itself) as long as the program has sufficient core faculty and resources to train the additional fellow. It is the individual program’s responsibility to apply for the complement increase. This is done through ADS and involves your GME committee and DIO.

    Previously, we have asserted that the ACGME “double-counted” the pilot fellow as both a GI fellow and transplant hepatology fellow during the pilot year. This is no longer true, meaning a program has the option to recruit an additional GI fellow to replace the vacant spot left by the pilot fellow. If the pilot fellow is unable to complete the pilot program for any reason, the pilot fellow will need to be reintegrated into the GI fellowship program to complete his/her GI fellowship requirements. If the program has filled its complement, it will need to request an increase in complement from the ACGME in order to accommodate this reintegration. Some programs may not be able to add another GI fellow because of local availability of GME funding.

  3. How should the pilot fellow be listed in ADS - as a GI fellow or a transplant hepatology fellow?
  4. The pilot fellow should be listed in ADS as a transplant hepatology fellow (“Active Full Time”). This is a change from prior years when it was recommended that the pilot fellow be listed as a GI fellow. If the pilot fellow is unable to complete the pilot program for any reason, he/she will need to be changed in ADS from transplant hepatology back to GI.

  5. What about FasTrack certification?
  6. For the purposes of eligibility for certification in both specialties, ABIM needs confirmation of both the GI and the transplant hepatology general and procedural competencies of the pilot fellow. Therefore, programs will need to complete separate evaluations for GI and transplant hepatology.

  7. Why does the pilot application require submission of a copy of the last notification letter from the ACGME Review Committee and a written response describing how all citations and AFIs (Areas For Improvement) are being addressed?
  8. The Pilot Steering Taskforce is charged with ensuring that the clinical environment that will train the prospective pilot fellow is in good standing with the ACGME and is well suited to participate in this unique training program.