Focus on MP

Focus on MP

ABMS and ACGME: Six Core Competencies for Initial Certification

By Kalpana M. Kanal, PhD; Robert A. Pooley, PhD; and Matthew B. Podgorsak, PhD, ABR Trustees; J. Anthony Seibert, PhD, ABR Governor; Geoffrey S. Ibbott, PhD, ABR Associate Executive Director for Medical Physics


The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has published general standards that provide the broad structure for Initial Certification mechanisms developed by ABMS Member Boards. In 1999, the ABMS and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) adopted six core competencies for Initial Certification with the understanding that each ABMS Member Board would incorporate these core competencies into their standards for Initial Certification. The ABMS/ACGME competencies are recognized as integral to quality patient care and are common across the ABMS Member Boards while accommodating differences among the specialties.

The six core competencies are listed below. For each competency, we have quoted the ABMS text and followed that with examples of how the competency applies to medical physicists (in italics).

  1. Practice-based Learning & Improvement refers to the candidate’s ability to investigate and evaluate patient care practices, appraise and assimilate scientific evidence, and improve the candidate’s own practice of medicine, the collaborative practice of medicine, or both.
  • Testing CT equipment and determining the reason for failed or unexpected performance results, conducting a literature search to look for scientific evidence for a particular practice or radiation dose trend to improve patient care and safety, conducting literature review and developing procedures for implementing a new treatment technique such as stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)
  1. Patient Care & Procedural Skills refers to the candidate’s use of clinical skills and ability to provide care and promote health in an appropriate manner that incorporates evidence-based medical practice, demonstrates good clinical judgment, and fosters patient-centered decision-making.
  • Estimating patient skin dose and assessing risk, troubleshooting image quality issues, and providing physicians with dose estimates for patient or fetus for various procedures
  1. Systems-based Practice refers to the candidate’s awareness of, and responsibility to, population health and systems of health care.
  • Being engaged in the clinical practice and implementing policies and procedures that impact patient care at local and potentially national levels, understanding the capital purchase process and being involved in major purchase decisions across the enterprise
  1. Medical Knowledge refers to the candidate’s demonstration of knowledge about established and evolving biomedical, clinical, and cognate sciences, as well as the application of these sciences in patient care.
  • Applying medical physics knowledge to equipment acceptance testing, image quality evaluation, radiation dosimetry concepts, cancer risk assessments, and problem-solving issues that arise in the clinic
  1. Interpersonal & Communication Skills refers to the candidate’s demonstration of skills that result in effective information exchange (team member/leader, verbal, and non-verbal communication, being mindful of health literacy and listening).
  • Effective oral and written communication with our physician colleagues, technologists, and other stakeholders internal and external to the institution; drafting clear reports; teaching medical physics concepts effectively to radiology and medical physics residents and graduate students
  1. Professionalism refers to the candidate’s demonstration of a commitment to fulfilling professional responsibilities; adhering to ethical principles; applying the skills and values to deliver compassionate, patient-centered care; demonstrating humanism; being sensitive to diverse patient populations and workforce; and practicing wellness and self-care.
  • Exhibiting professional behavior and a commitment toward work responsibilities; being ethical; being sensitive to different patient populations and needs; being responsive on patient-related tasks; complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

Diplomates participating in Continuing Certification (formerly Maintenance of Certification) must attest annually that they are meeting the following standards: Professionalism and Professional Standing; Lifelong Learning and Self-Assessment; Assessment of Knowledge, Judgement and Skill; and Improvement in Medical Practice.

ABMS has introduced Continuing Certification standards that will be effective in 2024 and will incorporate the following: General Standards, Professional Standing and Conduct, Lifelong Learning, and Improvement in Health and Health Care. These standards represent an evolution of previous Continuing Certification standards and retain the central elements of the ABMS/ACGME core competencies.


Standards for Initial Certification –

Standards for Continuing Certification –

Prisciandaro et al. Essentials and guidelines for clinical medical physics residency training programs: executive summary of AAPM Report Number 249, J Appl Clin Med Phys. 2014 May; 15(3): 4–13.

Thomas et al. The American Board of Radiology Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Program in Radiologic Physics. Med. Phys. 32 (1):263-267.

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