Last week marked an extraordinary achievement for the congenital heart community—the creation of a new medical subspecialty in adult congenital heart disease by the American Board of Medical Specialties. ACHA first endorsed the creation of a special ACHD training pathway in 2001, in response to the struggles our members face in finding cardiologists capable of caring for their health challenges. Standard cardiology training dictates only six hours of general congenital heart disease lectures, and no requirement to treat a single ACHD patient. Pediatric cardiologists are trained in children’s congenital heart issues, but not in the unique health challenges that arise as these patients age. A small number of cardiologists have undergone formal training in adult congenital heart disease, but most are self-trained, and none have undergone any kind of certification exam.
In 2008, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) took the lead in drafting formal education requirements for ACHD specialty care, and invited ACHA input and support. More than 100 ACHA members submitted letters to ACC describing their struggles in finding doctors capable of caring for their rare and life-threatening health issues. In the last four years, dozens of experts in congenital heart disease have offered input into the new requirements.
The new training pathway will require ACHD specialists to first complete either pediatric or adult cardiology training, and then receive two additional years of adult congenital heart disease training. Upon completion, they will be required to pass an ACHD subspecialty exam. Current ACHD specialists can apply for a waiver based on previous experience, but will need to pass the ACHD exam to qualify as an ACHD subspecialist. Full implementation of this new training pathway is expected by 2014. For more information, visit the ACC website here.
ACHA is tremendously grateful to Dr. Gerard Martin, past Chair of ACC’s Adult Congenital and Pediatric Cardiology Section, and ACHA’s Medical Advisory Board Chair Dr. Michael Landzberg and Vice Chair Dr. Curt Daniels, for their exceptional efforts in successfully shepherding ACHD subspecialty certification through the arduous drafting and approval process. ACHA also thanks the American Board of Internal Medicine for its investment in the future of the congenital heart community. We are confident that the creation of this groundbreaking new medical subspecialty will result in longer and better lives for the more than 2 million Americans now living with congenital heart disease.
Adult Congenital Heart Association