Before discussing this new non-credential, I’d like to provide background on why I’m writing this essay.
As you may know, medical specialty organizations have set up certification programs to assure the public that their members have adequate training in the specialty area. Certification usually involves a rigorous process of testing and peer evaluation that is designed and administered by specialists in the specific area of medicine. The organizations evaluate physician candidates on several fronts, asking questions such as: Has the candidate completed the appropriate residency requirements? Does he or she have an institutional or valid license to practice medicine? If a physician meets these basic admission standards, the Member Board will evaluate the candidate using rigorous written and oral examinations. (There’s lots of discussion about the process at the American Board of Medical Specialties website.)
For diabetes specialists in the United States, the process is governed by guidances set up by the American Board of Internal Medicine and their subspecialty board for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism.
Sometimes you will see physicians listing a set of letters beginning with the letter F or M (such as FACE). These credentials are only attainable after becoming Board-Certified, and meeting other criteria developed by specialty organizations called “Colleges.” The translations of these cryptic abbreviations is sometimes obvious, if you know that the letter
F stands for the words Fellow of the,
M stands for the words Master of the,
A frequently stands for the words American, or Academy of
R frequently stands for the word Royal, and
C frequently stands for the words College of. But
P may stand for the word Physicians, or Pediatrics, or Pathology
For endocrinology, the abbreviation is FACE: Fellow in the American College of Endocrinology.
So, that’s the background.
The other day, I received an invitation to become a Fellow of a different organization: Somebody has set up a “American College of Diabetes Specialists.” The solicitation goes on to describe all sorts of lovely-sounding non-credentials: I can become a “Fellow of the American College of Diabetes Specialists” and “will be allowed the use of the letters following the medical degree, FACDS, to signify my appointment.” I can also advance to become a “Master of the American College of Diabetes Specialists.” All I have to do to become a FACDS is send in an application form telling them about my medical experience, and an application fee of $200.
This concept fits precisely with a definition of a diploma mill: "an organization that awards academic degrees and diplomas with substandard or no academic study, and without recognition by official accrediting bodies. These degrees are often awarded based on life experience. "
Will physicians be suckered into spending their money to add the FACDS non-credential to their name? Maybe.
Will patients be suckered into believing that a physician with the FACDS non-credential is in some way “better” than other physicians in caring for people with diabetes? Hope not.