The BC Medical Journal is allowing questionable self-promotion by physicians of qualifications not recognized in Canada. In the January/February issue, the BCMJ printed news that “Three BC physicians earn board certification in lifestyle medicine,” and in the April issue, two articles, “Clinical assessment to determine a patient’s suitability for bariatric surgery,” and “Prevention and management of complications after bariatric surgery,” identified authors as being Diplomates of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. The BCMJ does not publish the names of BC physicians who have achieved their CCFP or FRCPC/FRCSC. And these are at least based on clinical patient training over many years, with rigorous criteria and examinations for certification and accreditation, as well as being accepted, approved, and accredited Canadian standards. The board referred to is not the American Board of Medical Specialties that most physicians know, but even if it were, the requirements for specialty board certification in some instances is fewer years of training than required in Canada. These paper certificates are two of a growing number of mostly foreign ways available to physicians for advertising an impressive-sounding resume, just by attending as little as a 1- to 2-week or longer course or training and/or doing some reading, possibly even absent any live patients. Or, one can simply pay to become a fellow of some society that sounds rather distinguished. This would be of little consequence if websites didn’t exist. There have been many instances of physicians advertising on the Internet in a manner implying that they are specialists when they are not.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons should proactively address this issue. Advertising foreign credentials should not be allowed except where they are recognized as being equivalent to accepted Canadian professional accreditation standards. The BCMJ should end the practice of publishing such questionable credentials.
My concern is one of patient safety, public trust, and physician accountability.
—Evert Tuyp, MD, FRCPC
Thank you for your points regarding credentials. The BCMJ does not have a robust policy on this topic, but your letter has identified a need to develop one. Once the policy is written, we will report on it. –ED
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