May 30, 2007
Who claims to be a pediatrician – and who really
Up to 17 percent of physicians who claim to be pediatricians
are not board certified by ABP; U-M expert offers tips to help parents
choose a pediatrician
ANN ARBOR, MI –How well do you know your child’s
pediatrician? Is he or she board certified in pediatrics, or has he or
she ever completed specialty training in the field?
L. Freed, M.D., MPH
Findings from a new study from the University
of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital’s Child
Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit may prompt parents to
find out if their child’s physician really is who he
claims to be – a board-certified and specialty-trained
The study, published in the June issue of the Journal
of Pediatrics, found that as many as 17 percent of physicians
in a single state who claim to be pediatricians on state
licensure files have never been board certified as a pediatrician
by the American Board of Pediatrics
(ABP). And another 12
percent of physicians who report to be pediatricians did
not complete a medical residency training program in pediatrics.
“Residency training in pediatrics and board certification
by the American Board of Pediatrics distinguish the physician
as having the level of expertise and knowledge to provide
the best possible care for your child,” says study
lead author Gary L. Freed, M.D., MPH, chief of the Division
of General Pediatrics and director of the CHEAR Unit at Mott.
He continues, “Our finding that up to 17 percent of
those reporting to be pediatricians in a given state are
not board certified by the ABP should encourage more parents
to find out if their child’s physician really has been
board certified as a pediatrician, and that he or she has
maintained that certification status. Recertification is
equally important because medicine is constantly changing,
and it is a means to keep physicians up-to-date on the latest
So why are some physicians able to claim to be pediatricians
without the proper training and certification? Freed says
many state licensing boards allow physicians to self-declare
their areas of expertise without verifying the information.
To study the accuracy of such self-reporting systems, the
CHEAR Unit team gathered state licensure data for all active
physicians in two randomly selected states in each region
of the United States – Ohio and Wisconsin, Texas and
Mississippi, Massachusetts and Maryland, and Oregon and Arizona.
The state data were then matched with the ABP’s listing
of all pediatricians who have ever received board certification,
regardless of their medical training history.
The proportion of “unmatched” physicians ranged
from 6.9 percent in Massachusetts to 16.8 percent in Maryland,
with the researchers finding, on average, 11 percent of physicians
who claim to be pediatricians on the state licensure files
were not listed by ABP as having as ever been board certified
The researchers then sent a survey to nearly 400 active
physicians in all eight states who appear as pediatricians
on state licensure files, but had no certification record
with the ABP. Of the 255 physicians who responded to the
survey, 61 percent say they had completed residency training
in pediatrics. Nearly half reported they had some current
board certification, and of these, 53 percent say they were
certified by a board other than the ABP. Freed also notes
that 12 percent of physicians who report to be pediatricians
did not complete a pediatric residency training program.
“This is a reminder to parents that just because physicians
claim to be pediatricians, it doesn’t necessarily mean
that they are board certified by the ABP or have ever been
certified, or even received the appropriate training to be
designated as a specialist in the field of pediatric medicine,” warns
Freed, the Percy and Mary Murphy Professor of Pediatrics
and Child Health Delivery at the U-M Medical School and professor
of health management and policy at the U-M School of Public
“Parents have the right to have high expectations
for the physicians they have entrusted with their child’s
care. They should feel empowered to ask physicians if they
are board certified in their field of expertise,” he
says. Parents also can go online to check a pediatrician’s
board certification status via the ABP: www.abp.org.
Finding a pediatrician that’s right for you and your
While parents often opt to have a pediatrician to provide
care to their child, many will instead choose a family medicine
practitioner to handle their child’s – and even
the entire family’s – medical needs. Freed says
physicians who specialize in family medicine are trained
and very capable of caring for children. If a family, however,
decides to have a pediatrician care for their child, Freed
offers the follow six tips to help guide parents in selecting
- Board certification and specialty training.
Board certification demonstrates that the physician has
the knowledge, skill and experience to offer the highest
quality of care in the field, and pediatricians are required
to undergo recertification through the American Board of
Pediatrics every seven years. To check on a pediatrician’s
board certification status, visit the ABP at www.abp.org.
- Office hours. Does the pediatrician
hold office hours that will work with your family’s busy schedule? Is the
pediatrician available to handle patient care needs after
regular business hours? The pediatrician’s schedule
needs to be a good fit for your family’s schedule
in order for the relationship to be a success, Freed says.
- Ability to care for children with chronic diseases.
Is the pediatrician experienced in caring for children
with chronic diseases such as asthma or diabetes? The American
Lung Association estimates that 6.2 million children under
age 18 currently have asthma, so having a pediatrician
who is able to provide your child with the necessary care
for such chronic diseases can be important.
- Association with major medical center.
Pediatricians who are associated with a major medical center,
such as U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, are able to easily refer
patients for specialty medical care services – rheumatology,
cardiology, oncology and neurology – when needed.
- Health care philosophy. Does the pediatrician
share your views on health care for your child? It’s
important that parents find a pediatrician who agrees with
their views on what keeps a child healthy, disease prevention,
and treatment options.
- Gender. As children grow from infants
to an adolescents, they may feel less comfortable discussing
their changing bodies with a physician of the opposite
sex. While adolescence may be years away, Freed encourages
parents to plan ahead, and select a pediatrician with whom
their children will feel most comfortable as they grow.
In addition to Freed, co-authors from the CHEAR Unit in
the Division of General Pediatrics are Rebecca L. Uren, MHSA,
Ericka J. Hudson, MHSA, and Indu Lakhani, MBA, MS; and the
Research Advisory Committee of the American Board of Pediatrics.
The study was funded by the American board of Pediatrics
of Pediatrics, Vol. 150, Issue 6.
Written by: Krista Hopson
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