You may want to ask whether your doctor is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. Although there are many excellent physicians who have not gone through the process of board certification and who provide excellent care for pregnant women, board certification signifies a certain uniform level of training, experience, and competence. Physicians seeking board certification in obstetrics and gynecology must go through rigorous training.

First, they must be accepted into a four-year training program approved by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, often requiring attendance and graduation from an accredited medical school. During the four-year training program the physician gains first hand experience in managing most obstetrical complications and emergencies.

Following the completion of this program, the doctors must pass a comprehensive three-hour written examination to advance further in the certification process. Those who successfully pass this exam enter practice. For the first year of their practice they compile case lists, collecting a detailed record of every patient they admit to the hospital, accounting for the outcome of mother and baby, and any complications they encountered. The completed case lists are then sent to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology for preliminary review to see whether the doctors have broad enough experience to qualify them to be potential board-certified obstetricians/gynecologists. For the first one to three years of practice, it is common for a fully-trained OB-GYN not yet to be board certified. This is often referred to as board eligible, though the proper term is ?active candidate?. There is no reason to believe that the care rendered by an active candidate is any different than that provided by a board-certified physician.

The doctors then sit for the oral board examination that marks the potential completion of a process of training and certification that has taken nearly twelve years beyond college. On the day of the exam, three pairs of board examiners, generally senior, well-respected members in their specialties of obstetrics and gynecology from around the United States, test the doctors individually. The candidates are questioned about the entire breadth of their specialties. During the exam the doctors are presented with hypothetical patients and complications and asked how they would manage them. In addition, the doctors must defend their case lists, explaining why certain complications occurred or why they did things a certain way, and they must give answers that are satisfactory to the board examiners.

About 90 percent of American trained physicians who take the written board examination pass. About 85 percent of those who go on to take the oral examination receive a passing grade.

For those who choose to pursue subspecialty certification in maternal-fetal medicine, the process is repeated all over again after three years of additional training, another written exam, another oral exam, another case list, as well as the successful defense of a scientific publication or thesis.

Today, board certification is valid for six years. Following this, there are a variety of ways a doctor gets re-certified. All of these are considerably less arduous than the initial certification procedure.

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