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Seven Things To Know When You Receive A Notice Of Investigation From The Department Of Health

Disciplinary Action From The ABIM


In 2010, the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) sanctioned 139 physicians for seeking out and sharing board exam questions with a testing preparation company, which allegedly undermines the pledge which test-takers sign before the computerized exam. It also allegedly breaches copyright, contract and intellectual property laws, according to the ABIM.

The physicians were identified from paperwork and emails collected from a board review course (Arora Board Review) that was sued by the ABIM. According to the ABIM, Arora Board Review instructors bragged that the questions covered in the course were real and obtained from actual test-takers and also asked participants to send in questions that they encountered when they took the exam. The ABIM and Arora Board Review reached a settlement in that case, including a provision that Arora’s manager can not operate a live board review course.

For the physicians involved in the cheating scandal, disciplinary action taken by the ABIM included revocation of board certification or suspension of certification for one to five years, depending on the severity of the offense. The ABIM also reported these actions to state medical boards.

If you find yourself in any situation involving disciplinary action from the ABIM, such as the “cheating scandal,” there are several actions you should take in order to address the situation. 

  1. Retain the services of an experienced healthcare attorney who is familiar with such matters, immediately.  The American Health Lawyers Association or your state bar association are good sources.  Ask for a referral of a health lawyer who represents physicians.

  2. Avoid e-mailing or discussing your situation on any listservs or blogs.  These communications can be traced and your complete identity will be easily determinable.

  3. Be completely candid with your attorney and reveal all facts, documents and prior communications that have occurred.  Otherwise, it will be difficult for your attorney to effectively represent you.

  4. Do not miss any deadlines without requesting, in writing, via a verifiable method (not e-mail) that you have requested a review, hearing, appeal or other due process rights.  “Verifiable” means sent by a method that can be tracked and receipt of which is documented.  (e.g., U.S. express mail with a return receipt requested, Federal Express, etc.)

  5. In the face of convincing evidence that you breached the rules during an exam, the most reasonable course of action may be admitting this to the committee, producing any mitigating factors, apologizing and proposing a less harsh sanction.

  6. Review any employment contracts, independent contractor agreements, provider agreements with third-party payers and medical staff bylaws (for hospitals at which you have privilege) with your attorney to determine if you are required to report this event.

  7. Advise your employer (or prospective employer) of the situation. Offer to do whatever is necessary to help alleviate any problems this causes to your employer.

  8. See if your employer (or prospective employer) will be agree to negotiating an amendment to the terms of your employment, including different duties, more supervisory, administrative or managerial duties, lower salary, etc., if necessary.

Remember that every individual, every case and every situation is unique.  You should consult with your attorney on every issue and follow his or her advice.


This article is for information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Always check for changes and updates in the laws and regulations.

© Copyright 2012 George F. Indest III, Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law, The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714. Phone: (407) 331-6620. All rights reserved.