ABIM displays zero tolerance for physicians cheating on exams

On June 9, The American Board of Internal Medicine sanctioned 139 physicians for seeking out and sharing board exam questions with test-prep company Arora Board Review--and sought legal action against five the ABIM says are guilty of copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract.

According to the investigation, Arora (sued last year by ABIM) provided its enrollees with actual board questions, which the company obtained from previous test takers it urged to relay questions from memory shortly after taking the exam. Both the physicians who leaked the questions as well as those who sought them violated written agreements not to discuss, repeat, copy or reproduce exam content.

In the five suits filed last Friday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the ABIM is seeking monetary and injunctive relief, claiming each doctor's conduct has cost it more than $75,000 in having to remove hundreds of compromised questions from the pool and undergo a complex process to develop new ones.

"Sharing test questions from memory is a serious problem that threatens the integrity of all standardized testing. Test takers need to know that this kind of ‘brain dumping' is grossly unethical," said Christine K. Cassel, MD, ABIM's president and CEO, in a press release. "Ethics are critical to the practice of medicine and are the foundation of a successful doctor-patient relationship. We will not tolerate unethical behavior from physicians seeking board certification."

In following through with ABIM's pledge that "anyone who seeks to compromise the integrity of our examinations will face swift and serious consequences," the physicians' board certification was suspended for up to five years and those who have not yet passed the boards were barred from taking them for at least a year. Given that the scam appears to have been widely known among Arora participants, physicians who took the course but weren't sanctioned will receive a letter of reprimand.

To learn more:
- see this article in the Wall Street Journal
- here's the WSJ blog post
- see the ABIM press release