Last week, the American Board of Internal Medicine sanctioned 139 physicians for sharing test questions and answers from the board’s certification test.
The move came a few months after the ABIM sued New Jersey-based Arora Board Review for theft of trade secrets and copyright infringement. The sanctioned physicians had disclosed actual board questions to Arora while participating in one of its exam prep courses.
ABIM and Arora reached a settlement in the case in which Arora’s manager agreed not to offer a live board review course. Terms of the agreement did not require Arora to admit wrongdoing.
ABIM CEO Christine Cassel told AMedNews that her organization became aware of the issue after stumbling upon copyrighted exam questions on Arora’s website.
“At the Arora Board Review courses, [the manager] was not only bragging that he had ABIM questions but soliciting people who remembered questions to report them back to him,” Cassel said.
Physicians must sign a “pledge of honesty” 3 separate times during the exam. The pledge warns test-takers not to disclose, copy or reproduce test-related material, and threatens penalties for those who do.
Camille Miller, the lawyer who represented Arora in the suit, said that Arora disagreed with ABIM’s actions. “Physicians routinely discuss examination content with others,” she said. “ABIM has not apparently enforced this consistently against other physicians.”
Penalties levied by ABIM against the physicians may include revocation of board certification or suspension of certification for up to 5 years depending on the particular offense. Noncertified physicians would need to wait for a year or more before retaking the test.
The physicians have 2 months to appeal the ABIM’s decision. After that, the board will start notifying state medical licensing boards of its actions.