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Generally, doctors are highly respected in this country, and for good reason. American medical doctors undergo some of the most rigorous professional training in the world.

Getting through medical school, years of residency, and passing the exams required for board certification requires years of hard work and sacrifice. Physicians who specialize in certain disciplines can spend over a decade learning their area of specialty.

When visiting a doctor, you may have noticed that he or she is board certified in a certain practice area (or multiple areas). Understandably, many patients wonder if board certification is mandatory, what exactly it entails, and whether they should only see physicians who are board certified in a specific area.

Because so many of the lawyers at LawMD are physicians themselves, we have firsthand experience with the tests and hands-on experience required to practice medicine. When you choose a doctor, it’s important to thoroughly research his or her credentials.

There are strict rules that govern how a doctor can hold himself out to patients as being board certified in a specific area. If your doctor has misrepresented his training, credentials, or experience, speak to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

Medical Degree vs. Board Certification

There is a difference between being licensed to practice medicine and being board certified in a specific medical specialty.

To be licensed to practice medicine, an individual must first graduate from medical school — a step that comes after he or she has already obtained a bachelor’s degree at the undergraduate level. In the U.S., students who wish to become physicians can attend medical schools that offer the MD (doctor of medicine) or DO (doctor of osteopathic medicine) degree.

After receiving an MD or DO degree, doctors must then fulfil their residency requirements. Residency training can last anywhere from three to seven years, depending on the area of specialty the doctor wishes to pursue.

For example, if you have taken your child to a pediatrician, your child’s doctor has completed a residency in pediatrics. This means the pediatrician spent several years after medical school studying and training under the supervision of experienced doctors in pediatrics.

In some cases, doctors may extend their training beyond residency by participating in a fellowship program. Fellowship training can last an additional one to three years. Generally, doctors who go on to a fellowship program wish to practice in a highly specialized area.

Unlike medical school and residency, which are mandatory, board certification is entirely voluntary. In the U.S., doctors can choose to become board certified through the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association. Dentists can also choose to become board certified.

The ABMS, which is the larger of the two organizations for physicians, oversees 24 medical specialties. Although board certification is voluntary, the majority of doctors maintain a board certification in at least one area of practice.

According to one report, about 85 percent of the 700,000 licensed MDs in the U.S. are board certified. To find out if your doctor is board certified, you can perform a search on the ABMS website.

Speak to a LawMD Attorney-Physician about Your Case

If you have been injured due to a doctor’s negligence or a hospital’s mistake, it’s important to speak to a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer right away.

The medical malpractice lawyers at LawMD are available today to speak to you about your case. Call now to discuss your options with one of our attorney-physicians.