How Fellowship Recognition Programs Help Rural Physicians and Their Careers in Emergency Medicine by Dr. D. Brent Hatcher, DO, FAAEP, MBA

Dr. D. Brent HatcherI am currently the fellowship director and assistant medical director of the emergency department at Jackson Madison County General Hospital in Jackson, Tennessee. I have been the fellowship director there since 2016, and I was a fellow of this program in 2010.  The program started about 15 years ago with one fellow, and in 2021, I expanded the program to accommodate up to eight fellows. We also have an unopposed family medicine residency associated with the University of Tennessee that hires 12 residents every year.  Our main campus emergency room volume is between 80,000-100,000 visits per year.

Many rural emergency rooms require family medicine physicians with emergency room experience. Depending on your family medicine training, you may not have diverse exposure to emergency medicine. A fellowship program provides an avenue for obtaining broad emergency room experience and perfecting critical procedures that a rural emergency room physician will need to perform. Given that some hospitals have bylaws that require board certification in a chosen field, a fellowship program that makes you eligible for certification can open doors and put you at the top of the list for consideration of employment.

The opportunity to become board certified is important to rural physicians practicing in the emergency department because it demonstrates that they have the knowledge and experience required to achieve board certification. Having a board-certified emergency physician in a rural emergency department gives patients confidence and peace of mind that they are getting the best health care available. In my experience, I have noticed that administrators of rural hospitals love to advertise to the community that there are board-certified physicians working at their institution.

How Fellowship Programs Benefit Patients

Having fellowship-trained physicians in the emergency department benefits patients by providing experienced physicians that are used to stabilizing those who are critically ill.  Fellowship-trained physicians have the knowledge base and experience to deliver the best appropriate treatment with the resources available at that facility. The vast knowledge base, procedural experience, and understanding of the referral networks help streamline diagnosis, management, and transfer when required.

American Board of Physician Specialties® Fellowship Programs

The ABPS recognizes emergency medicine fellowships that have been approved by the American Academy of Emergency Physicians (AAEP) Fellowship Recognition Program. Completion of an approved fellowship is one of the criteria for physicians to be eligible to take the certification exam with the Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine (BCEM), which is governed by the ABPS. By completing an AAEP-recognized fellowship, I was able to immediately work in any emergency room in my region. My patient logs and procedural experience spoke for themselves. Becoming board-certified by the ABPS has further secured my ability to practice emergency medicine. I have flexibility when it comes to choosing where I want to work. In fact, most hospitals in my region equally recognize FACEP and FAAEP.

Without a doubt, I would recommend an AAEP-recognized fellowship to any primary care physician planning on working in the emergency department. Whether you want to work full time or supplement your income with part-time shifts, an AAEP-recognized fellowship will give you the confidence to treat anyone who walks through the door. The fellowship provides quick exposure to a vast array of critical medical conditions, comfort with invasive procedures, and affiliation with the nationally recognized ABPS and its network of physicians around the country.


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On October 18, 2007, President George W. Bush released Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), calling on our nation, among other initiatives, to “collectively support and facilitate the establishment of a discipline of disaster health”. It is a great testament to the wisdom and foresight of the American Board of Physician Specialties that it immediately set to work and created, within the short span of only one year, an educational blueprint and set of certification examinations, both written and oral, for a new subspecialty of disaster medicine—and it is why I chose to be part this vital initiative and this wonderful organization. This is but one of the many innovative programs initiated by the American Board of Physician Specialties over the years, and why I am proud to support its work on behalf of our nation’s public health.

Art Cooper, MD
Disaster Medicine
When the American Board of Physician Specialties offered to host the American Board of Integrative Medicine, ABPS became a landmark organization working to move medicine into the twenty first century. Certifying physicians who have completed rigorous academic training in Integrative Medicine ensures that the field of Integrative Medicine will continue to develop academically, clinically, and professionally. The leadership of ABPS continues to impress me - they are diligent in constantly innovating to provide certifications for physicians who want to advance their careers and their areas of expertise. I am honored to be a part of this organization.

Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
Integrative Medicine
There are many ways board certification advances a physician career. ABPS Board examination verifies your accuracy, precision, and reflects your mastery of your residency training verifying your expertise. ABPS Board certification demonstrates your level of expertise beyond your practice experience, primary education degrees, and training which are necessary for insurance reimbursement and practice privilege requirements. Attaining your ABPS Board Certification will clarify your purpose, secure your practice growth, and expand into leadership positions. Board certification can serve as an indication of a physician’s commitment to medicine, beyond the minimal standards and competency of training, their measurement to quality of care, and attaining an award for excellence.

Chris Kunis MD
Internal Medicine
When I think historically, advancement in medicine and patient safety and care has been driven by the diversity of people and scientific thought. That’s what I found at the ABPS and more. For over 60 years that is just who we are. I found a physician certifying body that provides a choice and voice to all physicians ensuring that patients are always placed first.

Jerry Allison, MD
Emergency Medicine
When I decided to pursue a full time role as a physician executive it was important to me to obtain additional professional training, education and work experience. Board certification through the ABPS in Administrative Medicine is validation of my efforts and a demonstration of dedication to professional development. We need more physicians to become full time health care executives, knowing there is a board certification option in Administrative Medicine encourages physicians to take the leap from full time clinical practice to healthcare organizational leadership.

Richard Paula, MD
Administrative Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of internal medicine through board certification. As a hospitalist, board certification is an expected credential, and hospitals recognize the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) as one of the three standard credentialling bodies for Internal Medicine. Additionally, the ABPS has helped me develop leadership skills as a Board member and Committee Chairperson. ABPS has also helped me sharpen critical thinking skills as a test question developer and reviewer. The Allopathic (MD) and Osteopathic (DO) physicians in the ABPS are lifelong learners and frequently pursue multiple board certifications. I enjoy the camaraderie of my peers in ABPS.

Loren Jay Chassels, DO
Internal Medicine