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Obesity specialists growing in number across U.S., Canada


Board announces 40% increase from 2022 to 2023.

Doctor writing word OBESITY with marker, Medical concept: © MP Studio - stock.adobe.com

© MP Studio - stock.adobe.com

Obesity medicine is taking off as new medications for that condition gain attention of physicians and patients.

The American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM) announced its latest class of 1,539 new diplomates led to a 40% increase in obesity medicine physicians from 2022 to 2023. They followed 955 physicians who earned first-time board certification in January 2023, bringing the total to 8,263 across the United States and Canada.

“The growth of obesity medicine board certification mirrors the rise in interest among physicians seeking a more evidence-based approach to treating patients with obesity,” ABOM Board of Directors Chair Judith Korner, MD, PhD, said in a statement.

The number of certified diplomates has risen every year since 2018 and the number of first-time ABOM certificates annually now exceeds those issued for cardiology, pulmonary disease, and medical oncology. The most recent class of diplomates includes 561 internists, 462 family physicians, 106 pediatricians and pediatric specialists, 75 endocrinologists, 69 surgeons, 44 obstetrician/gynecologists, and 39 gastroenterologists, along with other specialists.

The certification signifies specialized knowledge in obesity medicine. Certified physicians incorporate obesity medicine into their everyday practices, or treat obesity full-time, according to ABOM.

It appears they will be busy for the near future. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates obesity affects more than 40% of American adults, who face increased risks of heart disease, stroke, and musculoskeletal problems, according to ABOM.

The American Medical Association has recognized obesity as a disease since 2013, and ABOM calls it the most prevalent chronic disease in American society. But physicians receive little or no training in medical school and residency programs, leaving them unfamiliar with treatment guidelines and low confidence to treat obesity.

Meanwhile, new antiobesity medications are coming out with seemingly revolutionary results for some patients. Those can demand new levels of sophistication and training, ABOM Medical Director Kimberly Gudzune, MD, MPH, said in a statement.

“In the past, many doctors prioritized treating the problems caused by obesity rather than the disease itself. This attitude may stem, in part, from pessimism toward the effectiveness of older treatment options,” Gudzune said. “Now with the advent of highly effective anti-obesity medications, doctors are seeking certification to understand how to use these new tools. Through the certification process, they also learn the complexity of the disease of obesity as well as comprehensive strategies for treatment.”

ABOM announced its next obesity medicine certification exam will be administered in October 2024. The early application deadline is in July 2024 and the final application deadline is Aug. 7, 2024. ABOM offers certification pathways through continuing education and fellowships.

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