Hitting a Nerve

Is board recertification worth it?


I passed the neurology boards, for the first time, in 1998. Then again in 2009, and most recently in 2019.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

So I’m up again in 2029. Regrettably, I missed grandfathering in for life by a few years.

Some people don’t study for them, but I’m a little too compulsive not to. I’d guess I put 40-50 hours into doing so in the 3 months beforehand. I didn’t want to fail and have to pay a hefty fee to retake them (the test fee for once is enough as it is).

I’ll be 63 when my next certification is due.

So I wonder (if I’m still in practice) will it even be worthwhile to do it all again? I like what I do, but certainly don’t plan on practicing forever.

Board certification looks good on paper, but certainly isn’t a requirement to practice. One of the best cardiologists I know has never bothered to get his board certification and I don’t think any less of him for it. He also isn’t wanting for patients, and those he has think he’s awesome.

That said, there are things, like being involved in research and legal work, where board certification is strongly recommended, if not mandatory. Since I do both, I certainly wouldn’t want to do anything that might affect my participating in them – if I’m still doing this in 8 years.

By the same token, my office lease runs out when I’m 62. At that point I’ll have been in the same place for 17 years. I don’t consider that a bad thing. I like my current office, and will be perfectly happy to wrap up my career here.

It brings up the same question, though, with logistics that are an even bigger PIA. The last thing I want to do is move my office as my career is winding down. But a lease extension for a few years can be negotiated, a board certification can’t.

I can’t help but wonder: What is the point of recertification over time? If I’ve already passed it three times, hopefully that means I know what I’m doing. One side will argue that it’s purely greed, as the people who run the boards need money and a way to justify their existence. On the other side are those who argue that maintenance of certification, while not perfect, is the only way we have of making sure practicing physicians are staying up to snuff.

The truth, as always, is somewhere in between.

But it still raises a question that I, fortunately, have another 8 years to think about. Because I’m not in a position to debate if it’s right or wrong, I just have to play by the rules.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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