Not Your Grandfather’s ABFM

By Michael K. Magill, MD
Chair-Elect, American Board of Family Medicine
Professor and Chair-Emeritus
Department of Family and Preventive Medicine
University of Utah School of Medicine

Are you certified or planning to seek certification by the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM)? If so, you should know that change has come to ABFM, and more is on the way! Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happening with your Board:

New leadership. Warren Newton,MD, is the new President/CEO of the Board, joined by Libby Baxley, MD, as Executive Vice President. Both are dynamic, forward-thinking family physicians dedicated to ensuring ABFM serves diplomates, patients, and the public in support of better health for all. They are supported by a diverse and energetic Board of Directors and staff fully committed to modernizing board certification to promote excellence in Family Medicine.

                         Communication and collaboration. ABFM has launched new collaborations with members of the “family of Family Medicine,” especially communicating with AAFP and state chapters. Leaders and board members are fanning out across the country to keep you informed and seek your input. I invite you to take a look at the revamped ABFM website ( It has an extensive array of information you may find handy in facilitating your continued certification. In addition, we have launched a new ABFM Engagement Network to seek input from interested diplomates. Engagement Network members will be invited to provide rapid feedback and suggestions about Board developments.

Sign up for the ABFM Engagement Network at:

Certification. Periodic examination is the main way you demonstrate your continued cognitive expertise in Family Medicine.Starting in 2020, the every-ten-year certification examination will be shorter: now just 300 questions. In addition, we are piloting an important alternative to the periodic certification examination, called Family Medicine Certification Longitudinal Assessment (FMCLA). Offered to diplomates scheduled for the certification examination in 2019 and 2020 (and anticipated to be available for future years as well), FMCLA can be completed by answering 25 questions provided online each quarter and achieving a passing score on 300 questions over three to four years. Referencing is allowed and each question has a five-minute limit. Immediate feedback is provided regarding each answer, along with a critique explaining the answers and the references cited, so you can read them if you desire. Thus, FMCLA may fit in more efficiently with your practice, not requiring time and expense of travel to a secure testing center. Even more importantly, it also supports continued learning – which is the most frequent feedback comment we receive. More than 70% of eligible diplomates have elected to enter FMCLA, but nearly 30% of diplomates have told us they prefer the episodic exam, so that will still be an option. You can learn more about FMCLA at:

Self Assessment and Continuing Medical Education. The newest option for you to assess your knowledge gaps and plan your continued learning is the Continuous Knowledge Self Assessment (CKSA). The platform is similar to the FMCLA, with 25 questions quarterly sent to you online, along with immediate feedback and critique, but without time limits and without a requirement for a certain percentage of correct answers. I am one of over 31,000 diplomates participating in this option. I do it on my phone, and can verify that it works great, is easy, and a convenient way to learn! You can find out more at The Knowledge Self Assessments (KSAs: 60 questions on a clinical topic) remain available, and are soon to undergo a refresh with some new topics being added. These can be completed individually or in the popular Group KSA sessions offered at the AAFP’s FMX and State Academy of Family Physicians CME meetings, including at the UAFP CME & Ski February 20-23, 2020 in park City. You can register for the Group KSA and CME meeting here:

Performance Improvement (PI). Family physicians are committed to continually improving their care of patients. Most of us do PI in one form or another already, and the good news is that there are now numerous options available for you to meet your ABFM PI requirement. The ABFM has just launched a new PI Locator, within your online ABFM Physician Portfolio, which will help you quickly identify which of these PI activity options are most relevant to your practice. ABFM has also expanded the types of activities to meet the needs of family physicians in non-office settings, like hospitalists, those working in urgent/emergent care environments, hospice, nursing homes, locums, etc. The other good news is that any diplomate who teaches students or residents can now get credit for improving teaching.

Practice Improvement Options

Professionalism. Underlying everything we do at ABFM is recognition that professionalism of family physicians is fundamental. Professionalism draws on the “social contract” in which physicians are given the right to self-regulation in exchange for a commitment to put patients’ interests first, continually improve our care, and demonstrate ongoing excellence in learning and knowledge appropriate to our specialty. ABFM recently opened a new Center for Professionalism and Value in Health Care (CPV) in Washington, DC. I am very proud that our specialty has taken the lead to advance and support professionalism, essential to improving health of all Americans! You can learn more about the CPV at:

Tradition. One thing is not changing: ABFM’s dedication to supporting and advancing excellence of Family Medicine and Family Physicians as a key foundation to improve health of all Americans. This is reflected in our Mission: “To serve the public and the profession through certification, research, educational standards and support for the improvement of health care,” and in our Vision: “Optimal health and health care for all people and communities family physicians serve.” John Brady, MD, current Chair of ABFM in his presentation to the AAFP Congress of Delegates September 24, 2019 in Philadelphia said it well:

“Fifty years ago, brave members of the AAGP [now AAFP] felt society was facing an existential crisis surrounding primary care and came together to birth our discipline. Today, as we ponder the quadruple aim, we face challenges no less serious or complex. ABFM is rapidly changing to meet these needs, but our ultimate goal remains the same: Improving the health of our patients and our communities by being a collaborative partner in your pathway to clinical mastery.”

Michael Magill, MD

It is a great honor to serve you and our friends and neighbors as a member and Chair-Elect of the ABFM. I hope you are as grateful as am I for the privilege and responsibility of calling myself a Board-Certified Family Physician. Please contact me at if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.