New female pelvic medicine subspecialty earns board approval

April 28, 2011

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has announced the creation of physician certification in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, which will be administered by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) and the American Board of Urology (ABU).

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has announced the creation of physician certification in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, which will be administered by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) and the American Board of Urology (ABU).

The ABU issued its first subspecialty certificate in pediatric urology in 2007. For more than a decade preceding this, the ABU joined the ABOG in accrediting fellowship training programs in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. This was done to address an underserved need to treat women with urinary incontinence and a deficiency of well-trained faculty to instruct residents to become able practitioners in this field, said Stuart S. Howards, MD, the ABU’s executive secretary.

When the ABU entered into the agreement with ABOG, it was clearly stated that the ABU had not agreed to proceed from accreditation of fellowships to certification of practitioners, Dr. Howards explained. At that time, the Society for Urodynamics and Female Urology (SUFU) was not in favor of proceeding to certification. Several years ago, SUFU began to press for certification amid growing concerns that urologists would be at a disadvantage if ABOG proceeded with certification on its own.

The ABU agreed to proceed with a request to issue subspecialty certificates in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. Initially, the plan had been to leave accreditation with the current joint ABU/ABOG Fellowship Committee; however, the ABMS (which many years ago had granted ABOG special permission to accredit its training programs that would lead to certification) decided it would not grant this permission for female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, Dr. Howards said.

Therefore, female pelvic medicine fellowships, as is already the case for all non-ABOG fellowships, must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which has recently agreed to proceed with the accreditation of fellowships in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery beginning in 2012.

Subspecialty certification will be offered separately by ABOG and ABU, and it will likely be offered beginning in 2013, Dr. Howards said.

"It should be emphasized that subspecialty certification in pediatric urology and female pelvic medicine does not imply that urologists certified with a general urology certificate are excluded from practicing in these areas," he pointed out. "Indeed, the Board will definitely defend their practice in these areas if that is ever needed."