ACC and Multi-Society Stakeholder Efforts Lead to Creation of ACHD Subspecialty by ABMS

On Dec. 5, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) announced the creation of physician certification in a new cardiovascular subspecialty: Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD). The subspecialty will be offered by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and will create a pathway for certification for cardiologists previously certified by either the ABIM or the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP).

The announcement follows years of efforts from multi-society stakeholders, including the ACC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the International Society of Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ISACHD), the American Heart Association (AHA), the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA), and the Children's Heart Foundation (CHF).

Specifically, the new ACHD subspecialty will:

  • Meet the needs of the growing population of adults with congenital heart disease by ensuring there are enough physicians with the appropriate training to care for them in a consistent and comprehensive manner that is in compliance with recently published guidelines.
  • Enable adult congenital heart specialists to work in an environment that specializes in caring for this patient population and provides a mechanism for transition of care from adolescence to adulthood that would eliminate gaps in medical care.
  • Develop well-defined training pathways for internal and pediatric medicine cardiology trainees through the ABIM and the ABP. These pathways would culminate in a final common examination and subspecialty certification available.
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"This decision marks a great day for patients with adult congenital heart disease and their doctors," said ACC President William Zoghbi, MD, FACC. "The advances in cardiology over the past several decades mean that the majority of pediatric congenital heart disease patients are surviving well into adulthood and even old age. This is very good news but with it comes the need for a more specialized focus on this type of patient. The certification in adult congenital heart disease subspecialty allows this growing group of patients to have their unique cardiac needs met and lifts some of the burden on pediatric cardiologists who may not be appropriately trained in adult health issues."

The development of an exam and corresponding certification in ACHD administered through the ABIM has been a goal of the ACC for several years as the subspecialty certification was an initiative derived from the 32nd Bethesda Conference in October 2000 and outlined a need for a comprehensive strategy for ensuring an adequate and appropriately-trained ACHD workforce given the rapidly increasing ACHD patient population. In 2008, the ACC's Adult Congenital and Pediatric Cardiology Council, led by Gerard Martin, MD, FACC, spearheaded the multi-society effort to petition the ABIM and ABP for an adult congenital heart disease subspecialty certification.

Moving forward, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) is in the process of developing accreditation standards for training programs with the expectation that the certification exam will be available within the next three years.

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