By Michael O’Dell, MDMany doctors, upon completing their "internship", go through a grueling process to become board certified in a specialty. Specialty boards require board certified specialists to undergo continuing education and periodic recertification. Some doctors enter into their practices without going through the certification process. Technically speaking, these doctors that lack specialty training are general practitioners.The establishment of Family Practice as a recognized medical specialty occurred in 1969. This happened as the result of several different and sometimes conflicting pressures. One of these was the decline in GPs overall, from nearly 50% of graduates entering general practice in 1900 to less than 20% entering the field in 1964. Another was the broad expansion of the scope and breadth of medical knowledge and skills, the mastery of which would require more the typical four years of medical school and one year of internship of training (totaling five years of training). These factors, combined with what was seen as the GPs lack of prestige, led to the establishment of the Family Practice specialty. To obtain board certification, Family Practitioners today must complete a 3-year residency in the specialty after completion of medical school and take a thorough examination. A thorough course of continuing education is also required in order to maintain certification. Thus, while family practitioners by and large fill the void left by the GPs of old, they have elevated the position to the level of a true medical specialty. About the Author:
Michael O’Dell, MD, MSHA, FAAFP, is a board certified family practitioner. He chairs and holds a professorship in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Dr. O’Dell also holds a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics.