highlighting five years of growth

Five years after administering its first obesity medicine certification exam, the American Board of Obesity Medicine now boasts more than 2,000 certified physicians throughout the United States and Canada. Details of ABOM’s growth are highlighted this month in Obesity, the scientific journal of The Obesity Society (TOS), in a diplomate-authored paper that reviews the first five years of ABOM exams.

The report shows that certified ABOM physicians have steadily increased since 2012 with approximately 40% increases year-over-year. Currently, 2,068 physicians are designated diplomates of the American Board of Obesity Medicine with more than 500 sitting for the most recent exam in 2016. ABOM was originally established in 2011 through the merger of two prior certification pathways.

“Stewarded by ABOM, the rise of obesity medicine has begun to take hold in healthcare, as more physicians are now seeking certification in obesity medicine over other common medical specialties,” said TOS spokesperson Scott Kahan, MD, MPH, FTOS, a report co-author and ABOM diplomate.

After examination of the five-year report, ABOM’s next steps are to continue expanding the growth of fellowship training opportunities in obesity medicine and to further refine the standards of practice and certification examination coverage.

“It is very gratifying to see the progress that the American Board of Obesity Medicine has made in our first five years,” said ABOM Executive Director Dana Brittan. “The end result is more physicians are being trained to help patients with obesity. And that is exactly what we set out to do.”

We asked several report co-authors to share their views on the report and ABOM’s first five years:

What is your biggest takeaway from the report?

Robert Kushner, MD: There is an enormous interest in the field of obesity medicine and a desire to achieve recognition as a physician with specialized knowledge in this area.

Dyan Hes, MD: My biggest takeaway from this report is how physicians are motivated on their own to become obesity medicine physicians. These diverse physicians are so highly motivated to give the best care to their patients that they dedicate their time to hours of educational conferences and online learning to become better caregivers. Doctors seek out the ABOM in order to proudly say that they have expertise in treating the complex disease of obesity.  Our colleagues have seen the desperate need for obesity medicine physicians and they are filling the void in every field of medicine from pediatrics to psychiatry, as obesity affects every aspect of the life cycle.

Dr. Louis J. Aronne, MD: Given that more than one-third of the adult population suffers from obesity, there has been an enormous need for training and certification of practitioners in the field to meet the demand. The growth of ABOM over the past five years is a testament to the growing recognition of obesity as a disease by physicians and the public alike.

What has surprised you most about the growth of ABOM over the last five years?

Robert Kushner, MD: The rapid growth of diplomates was a pleasant surprise. We had always hoped that “if you build it they will come” would become true. Nonetheless, it was humbling and rewarding to see the growth actually occur.

Dyan Hes, MD: Actually, I am not surprised about the growth of the ABOM. I have been with the organization from the start and I knew once word got out that there is a pathway to an obesity medicine certification, doctors would be compelled to take the exam and become recognized for their expertise.

What have you gained over the last five years from being part of a new organization devoted to an emerging field of medicine?

Robert Kushner, MD: It has been extremely rewarding to be part of an initiative that has such an important impact on the field of obesity. We are setting the stage for a new direction in patient care.

Dyan Hes, MD: I have been impressed by the number of physicians who call me to learn how to “do what I do.” Every physician I speak with is looking for a like-minded colleague who is passionate about treating patients with obesity. Being able to share my knowledge and learn from other physicians in this field has been so rewarding. We can all learn from each other to improve the lives of our patients.