“The current addiction medicine workforce is old relative to all the physicians out there,” says ABAM president Jeffrey H. Samet, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and social and behavioral sciences at the Boston University School of Medicine.
Established in 2007 to confer recognition on physician specialists as an integral participant in the interdisciplinary care of patients with substance use disorders, ABAM has awarded board certification to 2,555 physicians so far. Samet said the three disciplines with the highest representation among this group are psychiatry (37% of all ABAM-certified physicians are psychiatrists), family medicine (16%) and internal medicine (15%).
While the overall numbers are noteworthy, Samet acknowledges that there’s “a lot of work to do for where we’ve got to be.” In one anticipated effort intended to elevate the quality of addiction medicine training and services, the ABAM Foundation expects eventually to pursue accreditation of addiction medicine residency training programs by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
The ABAM Foundation has given its accreditation to nine residency training programs thus far, and Samet says once the number reaches about 25 the foundation will reasonably be able to pursue ACGME’s seal of approval for these programs. At present there are no addiction medicine residencies included among the more than 9,000 ACGME-accredited residency programs in the nation’s hospitals.
Samet describes the certifying examination required of physicians seeking ABAM certification as “a major undertaking.” Another goal for the field is to have a member board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) certify physicians in addiction medicine.
In another development affecting the addiction medicine workforce, a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) grant to the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will assist in establishing post-graduate addiction medicine education programs in academic medical centers. “This critical investment in our nation’s health will ultimately improve patient care and reduce the medical, social and financial burden of the addiction disorders,” NIAAA acting director Kenneth Warren, PhD, said in a statement.