Wednesday, 04 October 2017 09:09

ASM Requests Core Faculty Status for ABMM Diplomates

ABMM Diplomates teach clinical microbiology in Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-accredited Pathology residency programs but are not considered core faculty.  The suggests that ACGME recognize the contributions of ABMM certified microbiologists in the education of pathology residents by qualifying them for core faculty status.


September 11, 2017

Thomas J. Nasca, MD, MACP
Chief Executive Officer
Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education
515 North State Street, Suite 2000
Chicago, IL 60654

Dear Dr. Nasca:

The American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM), a certification board of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), certifies doctoral-level (PhD and physician) microbiologists to direct medical and public health microbiology laboratories. ABMM certification is recognized by federal and state governmental agencies as a significant component toward meeting licensure requirements to direct laboratories engaged in the microbiological diagnosis of human disease. ABMM certification is recognized under the CLIA ‘88 final rule and in all 12 states that require licensure.

The ABMM certificants, called Diplomates, direct a significant number of high-complexity laboratories in the United States and many are actively teach clinical microbiology in ACGME-accredited Pathology residency programs. Many PhD clinical microbiologists who are ABMM Diplomates, and who spend considerable time and effort teaching microbiology in these programs, are not considered “Core” faculty by the ACGME. By ACGME rule, only physicians qualify for Core faculty status in (any) ACGME certified residency program.

Although this rule may be appropriate for residency programs in some specialties such as pediatrics or internal medicine where PhDs do not significantly participate in resident education, it is decidedly inappropriate for pathology residency programs. Board certified clinical microbiologists (and clinical chemists) have been heavily involved in pathology resident education for decades. Clinical microbiology and chemistry make up ~30-40% of the clinical pathology curriculum of a four-year anatomic and clinical pathology residency program. Many also participate in ACGME required program committees such as Program Evaluation Committee and Clinical Competency Committee, and are actively involved in resident recruitment, interviews, and selection for the Pathology Residency Match. Thus, teaching and other efforts provided by these individuals is vitally important for the success of pathology residency programs. As any pathology program director will attest, they are in fact “Core” faculty even if this effort is not recognized by the ACGME.

Beyond the recognition aspect, exclusion as Core faculty is a significant concern to ABMM Diplomates since it raises questions from administrators regarding dedicated teaching time for non-Core faculty and in some cases eliminates GME salary adjustments that cover time spent teaching. These changes will indirectly reduce the participation of these faculty in teaching activities through loss of compensated dedicated teaching time on schedules and thus negatively impact the quality of education received by pathology residents. Many microbiologists are actively involved in resident education and research. In the absence of alternative faculty with appropriate qualifications, programs will struggle to fulfil residents’ clinical pathology training needs.

This is additionally concerning given the recent work of the Association of Pathology Chairs Task Force to address the lack of clinical pathology laboratory directors and the potential impact on accreditation of residency programs with insufficient clinical staffs to direct and train. This task force is partnering with the ASM to identify non-physician doctoral training programs to assist in strategic development of training and recruitment solutions. A lack of recognition for board certified, non-physician lab directors as Core faculty is a recruitment disincentive when those directors cannot receive institutional GME support for residency and fellowship lectures.

PhD clinical microbiologists who are ABMM Diplomates are vested in ensuring a trained workforce and want to continue training the next generation of clinical pathologists. Most are enthusiastic educators. Education in pathology residency programs is a team effort, not strictly the purview of physician faculty.

We request that ACGME consider recognizing the contributions of ABMM certified microbiologists in the microbiology training of pathology residents by allowing them to qualify for Core faculty status. Thank you for your consideration.


Susan Sharp, PhD, D(ABMM), ASM Past President
Melissa Miller, PhD, D(ABMM), Chair, Professional Practice Committee

cc:  James R. Stubbs, MD, ACGME Pathology Review Committee Chair