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Date Posted: November 25, 2014

NBME and You

In this letter from NBME’s president, Donald Melnick, MD, MACP, the organization’s history of public protection is outlined.

The early 20th century was a time of great reform in American medical education and standards for the practice of medicine. Prior to this period of reform, the quality of American medical education and training varied greatly among medical schools, from high-quality institutions associated with established universities to for-profit diploma mills that graduated large numbers of often ill-prepared practitioners. In addition, significant variability in each state's policies and standards for licensure made physician mobility difficult. Reform-minded individuals recognized the need for generally accepted, uniform standards in medical education and licensure as a means to enhance the reputation of the profession and, more importantly, to protect the public from unqualified practitioners.

Dr. William L. Rodman (1856-1916) was a visionary leader in these efforts. In 1915, Dr. Rodman and his colleagues founded the NBME, which had as its primary purposes to (1) elevate the standard of qualification for the practice of medicine and surgery and (2) provide a means for recognition of qualified persons to practice in any state, territory or dependency of the United States without further examination by their licensing boards. Considered "The Founder" of NBME, Dr. William Rodman served as NBME's first secretary; following his sudden death in March 1916, he was succeeded by his son, Dr. J. Stewart Rodman, who served as NBME's medical secretary until his retirement in 1950.

Today's NBME is evidence of the wisdom of Dr. Rodman's vision. The NBME is the world's preeminent institution focused on the assessment of health professionals. Over nearly a century of service, the NBME has consistently fulfilled its mission: to protect the health of the public through state-of-the-art assessment of health professionals. NBME co-sponsors and develops the United States Medical Licensing Examination, used by all medical licensing jurisdictions in the United States to grant an initial license to practice medicine. Through this program, NBME sets minimum knowledge and skills standards for entry into unsupervised medical practice and indirectly wields tremendous influence on the content of American medical education. Over the years, services provided by the NBME grew from certification examinations for licensure to encompass support of assessment programs for specialty medical certification and re-certification, in-training and self-assessment, and other health professions' assessments. The NBME also provides a broad range of tools for use by medical schools and graduate medical education programs for assessment of students and trainees. Today, we are expanding the services we have traditionally provided in North America to improve assessment of health professionals around the world.

At past annual meetings, the NBME Membership has explored themes related to NBME's mission of protecting the public, including how to increase engagement of lay persons in roles in the development of policy and strategic direction of the NBME. The 2008 Annual Meeting theme was "collaboration as a strategic tool for achieving our mission." In response to suggestions at that meeting to reach out to many parts of the public and renew proposals to increase public connections, the NBME created a new committee, the Public Stakeholders Task Force (now known as the Public Stakeholders Committee). Its members are appointed by the NBME Chair. This committee has been meeting since the spring of 2009. It has participated in developing NBME policies relevant to the national conversation on health system reform and has identified many suggestions of ways in which the NBME can nurture collaboration with public stakeholders. The committee proposed that the NBME establish an Office of Public Engagement, to be implemented in late 2013, which will be responsible for leading the efforts to institutionalize a philosophy and a vision to ensure public engagement as a visible and important strategy for accomplishing the NBME's overarching goals and priorities. In addition, the NBME has developed a strategic plan for the future of the NBME's public enagagment efforts, which will be coordinated and championed by the Office of Public Engagement.

Just as patients must be informed about and involved in decisions regarding their own care, the NBME's mission of protecting the public health requires that the policies of the organization are representative of the interests of patients and the community. Ultimately, we believe NBME products that are responsive to patient needs will help to improve health outcomes and the quality of care provided to patients.

-- Donald E. Melnick, MD MACP


NBME Mission

To protect the health of the public through state of the art assessment of health professionals. While centered on assessment of physicians, this mission encompasses the spectrum of health professionals along the continuum of education, training and practice and includes research in evaluation as well as development of assessment instruments.

NBME Vision

Improving healthcare around the world through assessment

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