“Many people do not realize the extensive history of the ABPM,” stated Dr. Marc Benard, who is celebrating 20 years as Executive Director of the ABPM this July. “We have had a few significant changes since 1975, but as a credentialing organization, our roots span 41 years.”
In 1975 the American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics (ABPO) was formed to certify in the specialty of podiatric orthopedics. In 1993, as a result of a petition approved by the CPME, the American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics and Primary Podiatric Medicine (ABPOPPM) came to be. “We maintained that name and acronym until 2012 when our membership and our Board decided that the name American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM) clearly defined the breadth of our certification…and it was easier to remember,” said Benard.
While Dr. Benard has been the Executive Director since 1996, he has been working with the ABPM since 1985. “Although I was actively involved in the profession early on, I never aspired to being an administrator. That just evolved.” Previously Dr. Benard worked on several of the Board’s committees and was instrumental in transforming the way the ABPM creates and facilitates examinations.
“As a new member of the Examination Committee I remember thinking that there had to be a better way to develop and administer our examination,” he said. “When promoted to Chair I started putting a committee together by adding subject matter experts for each area in which we tested.” He also increased the activities of the Board’s psychometrician (professional test makers) to improve and develop the administrative methods utilized to make the expanded examination format reliable and valid – key criteria used in the development of tests. Orienting new committee members on the most effective way to frame questions was another priority. The committee structure still exists that way today. “Even though we were developing exam content and making structural advances, for a long while we continued to administer the exam through an older convention. I vividly remember the days of pencil, paper, Scantrons and blue exam booklets!” Over time this changed, however it wasn’t until 2012 that the ABPM examinations converted fully to a test center mediated format.
According to Dr. Benard, sometime around the late 1990’s the profession began to make serious advances in unifying the residency training structure. “At the time the profession contained too many residency types. In addition, the quality of education varied too much from program to program.” There were 1 year preceptorships, 1 year medical/surgical residencies, 1 year residencies in primary podiatric medicine, 1 year residencies in podiatric orthopedics and 1 or 2 year residencies in podiatric surgery. Many programs had these in combination. “There were also some people with no residency training, as there were fewer residencies than there were students.” Managed care was proliferating as well, and these organizations needed clarification of the podiatric postgraduate training structure relative to their credentialing criteria. “Many were, and sometimes still are, confused about the nature of podiatric residency training and the type of procedures and care that podiatric physicians render”, stated Benard. The profession’s first major advance in streamlining the many residency types was the creation of the PM&S 24, activated in 2003.. As the profession moved to a single, improved, training model the certifying boards needed to sunset access to the examination for those with less than the requisite training. Then, with the advent of the PMSR program, rolled out in 2011, podiatric residency training was finally unified into a single three-year model. Podiatrists with less than three years of eligible training will have until 2018 to become certified by the ABPM. The change to a three-year model also prompted the ABPM to evaluate case documentation outcomes as they related to examination outcomes. The Board compared the findings for those with a two year residency and those with a three year residency. “We determined that the case documentation pass rates and subsequent certification examination scores for those with the three year residency were so high, and so consistent, that the ABPM Board of Directors decided to waive the requirement for case documentation for that group,” explained Benard. “The consequence of that decision, and the good news for those coming out of their three-year programs, is significant. They are now able to sit for the qualification examination and, if successful, the certification examination within the year of completing residency,” stated Benard. This has become quite important for podiatric physicians needing to obtain hospital privileges and insurance panel access when beginning their careers.
One of the biggest shifts Dr. Benard has noticed in his time on the Board and as ABPM’s Executive Director is the importance of the ABPM credential. “It’s interesting,” observed Benard, “that whereas board certification began as a mark of professional achievement, pride and peer acceptance – i.e. a way to show that you had gone above and beyond licensure to demonstrate your credibility, in the last 10-15 years board certification has become a virtual mandate for survival.”
Both the profession and the ABPM continue to progress. “I think the future will be very interesting. There will certainly be more group and institutionally based practices and perhaps more sub-specialization. Podiatric physicians are much more integrated into the team approach to health care now. And, with so many new technologies available to large institutions that directly benefit patients, I think sub-specialization will expand within the podiatric profession. With sub-specialization, I suspect the ABPM will, where relevant, add specialty examinations, as is currently being done with the CAS in wound care/limb salvage.”
Dr. Benard continues to enjoy his role as Executive Director. “I consider myself fortunate to have been with an organization that I clearly care about and, along with many dedicated people, have help build over the last two decades,” he said. “I continue to approach this role not just as an administrator but as a practitioner who understands and cares about the profession and relates to the needs of podiatric physicians.” The ABPM asks you to join us in thanking and congratulating Dr. Marc Benard on his 20 years of service as its Executive Director, and for his 31 years as an integral contributor to the Board’s growth.