In a career with many HM “firsts," Robert M. Wachter, MD, MHM, is in line to become the first hospitalist to chair the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), which provides certification for the majority of working hospitalists. Dr. Wachter, chief of the 50-faculty Division of Hospital Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, was elected chair-elect by ABIM’s board on July 1, and is expected to become chair in July 2012.
“Bob Wachter becoming chair-elect of the ABIM is certainly an important milestone for our field,” says Scott Flanders, MD, SFHM, a hospitalist at the University of Michigan Health System and past president of SHM. “The ABIM recognized the importance of hospital medicine several years ago when they decided to add a hospitalist to the board. It should come as no surprise that they reached out to the man who is viewed as the father of hospital medicine.”
Christine K. Cassel, MD, ABIM’s president and CEO, says the election is less about recognition for the specialty and more about recognizing Dr. Wachter's transformational leadership in a number of areas, including hospital medicine.
“He has done the same kind of thing in the areas of patient safety and medical errors, and is now focusing on diagnostic accuracy,” she adds. According to Dr. Cassel, Dr. Wachter has helped ABIM focus on the need for transparency in physician performance information and report cards. “But it does indicate the maturity of the [HM] field that you have leaders like Bob—and he’s not the only one. Many emerging national leaders in healthcare are hospitalists,” she says.
ABIM sets standards and certifies physicians practicing in internal medicine and its 19 subspecialties. The board, whose members are all board-certified and represent those various subspecialties, guides the overall mission and direction in improving healthcare quality by the way it sets standards for certification, Dr. Cassel says. “The chair’s specific power and responsibility is to make sure the board runs effectively,” she adds.
In the first year of a Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program for physicians focused in hospital medicine offered by ABIM, 93 hospitalists completed the requirement and earned that designation.