The Liaison Commission on Medical Education (LCME) is the oversight agency that is responsible for the accreditation of the nation’s medical schools. Its members are appointed by AAMC and the American Medical Association (AMA). The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredits residency training programs in the United States. The sponsoring institution for a residency program may be a hospital, medical school, university, or group of hospitals (ACGME, 2008). Accreditation bodies define the core competencies for students, residents, and fellows and ensure that the formal curriculum covers all essential aspects of medical education. ACGME board members are appointed by AAMC, AMA, the American Board of Medical Specialties, the American Hospital Association (AHA), and the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS). Accredited continuing medical education providers are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). Its member organizations are AHA, AMA, AAMC, CMSS, the Association for Hospital Medical Education, and the Federation of State Medical Boards. State medical societies may also accredit providers within a state.4 In addition, AMA, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and certain other groups set standards and certify credits for specific courses that physicians can take (from accredited providers) to meet state licensure board and other requirements for accredited continuing medical education (see, e.g., AMA [2006, 2008b]).5 Accredited providers usually issue certificates to document that a physician has completed a certified course. Consistent with common usage, this report uses the phrase accredited continuing medical education to refer to education that is (1) presented by accredited providers and (2) certified for course credits.

Changing Environment and Fiscal Challenges

Academic medical centers dominate the provision of undergraduate and graduate medical education. The institutions consist of two related enterprises: a medical school that trains physicians and conducts research and a system that provides health care services. The latter system may include teaching hospitals, satellite clinics, and physician office practices. Academic health centers include other health professions schools, such as a school of dentistry, nursing, or pharmacy (Wartman, 2007).


As described by ACCME, “ACCME has two major functions: the accreditation of providers whose CME [continuing medical education] activities attract a national audience and the recognition of state or territorial medical societies to accredit providers whose audiences for its CME activities are primarily from that state/territory and contiguous states/territories” (ACCME, 2005).


AMA also authorizes credits for other activities, such as publishing an article in a peer-reviewed journal or achieving and maintaining specialty board certification.

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