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BREAKING: ACGME Updating Program Requirement for Pain Medicine

Jun 14, 2019

After several years of on-going advocacy efforts by AAPM&R and its partners, your Academy is thrilled to announce that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s (ACGME) Board of Directors approved proposed revisions to the Program Requirements for Pain Medicine that will allow for equal and unbiased access to pain medicine fellowships.

Working collaboratively with the Academic Community, the PM&R Review Committee, and the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPMR), AAPM&R has systematically submitted comments and data showing how the current Program Requirement negatively impacted the field of PM&R. By continuously standing up to what the Academy considers to be a flawed system, the ACGME’s Committee on Requirements (CoR) hosted an open forum and invited leaders within the field to provide testimony on the current Program Requirements. On June 7, 2019, D.J. Kennedy, MD, FAAPMR, who represented the Academy and Carolyn Kinney, MD, FAAPMR, who represented ABPMR, testified to the CoR and challenged the following requirements:

  • I.B.1.a) A pain medicine program can only be conducted in an institution and/or its participating sites that sponsor(s) ACGME-accredited residencies in at least two of the following specialties: anesthesiology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and child neurology/or neurology.
  • I.B.1.b) There can only be one ACGME-accredited pain medicine program within a sponsoring institution.

Through a powerful testimony, Dr. Kennedy showed how the current Program Requirements have inherent bias and flaws, which creates restriction of patient choice and access to pain physicians from a variety of specialty backgrounds at a time when we need more doctors in this field. Based on this testimony and the comments submitted on behalf of the Academic Community, the ACGME has agreed to revise these requirements and will be announcing specific details in the coming weeks—all positive news for the specialty and the patients we serve!

Given the current opioid crisis and physician workforce related issues, AAPM&R has been advocating for changes to both requirements, as they limit patient options and choice when it comes to the treatment of pain. Your Academy understands how physiatrists have the distinctive ability to bring together and lead a multidisciplinary care team focused on managing patients’ pain and optimizing function, which is why it was so important to continue this effort over the years. While this is a big and exciting step in the right direction, the Academy will continue to work with the Academic Community to ensure there are no barriers for physiatrists to train in pain medicine. 

Physiatry is stronger, together and this effort is a testament. We will continue to work BOLDLY and advocate for changes that advance our specialty and the care we provide our patients.