Home Blog “Drop your highlighters!”

“Drop your highlighters!”

January 2010

I am recertifying for my internal medicine boards in three months, so I signed up for an Arora Board Review course. While attending a session last month, just as we were about to review “high yield murmurs,” I developed a personal arrhythmia when U.S. marshals, flanked by ABIM security and attorneys, came barging in. “Freeze!” they screamed. “Drop your highlighters!”

OK, OK, none of that actually happened, but it is not as far-fetched as you might think. According to a recent press release from the ABIM, “The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against a board review course for physicians in internal medicine, alleging copyright infringement and theft of trade secrets by Arora Board Review, its principal Rajender K. Arora, M.D., and Anise Kachadourian, M.D. On December 7, 2009, U.S. Marshals, together with ABIM security and attorneys, seized infringing materials at the residence of Dr. Arora pursuant to a court order.”

First, I absolutely agree that the ABIM has an obligation to protect the integrity of its board exam to the fullest extent of the law. Second, obviously I have no idea as to the merits of the ABIM’s case against the defendants nor am I rendering an opinion about it.

Finally, and permit me to be extremely clear about this one, let me assure the ABIM–especially its security detail–that I mean them no ill will by way of this blog as I prepare to pass the boards. That’s especially true, given that passing the boards will allow me to continue to feed my family and maintain shelter on this frigid January day.

However, I will use the ABIM’s press release to segue into the topic of board preparation and, more specifically, the cost of the whole darn process. First, the moment I signed up for the boards, my mailbox swiftly filled with board prep ads. From MedStudy to MKSAP to you name it, everyone suddenly took a keen interest in my desire to pass the boards.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but the onslaught strangely began the day I signed up for the boards.

So if I am already down more than $1,300 to take the test, where to spend the rest of the boundless money I earn being a hospitalist? If you talk to people who have already recertified, many say that MKSAP is the must read.

Friends have told me, “Some of the questions were nearly identical to the actual test.” Now, I know that the smart people from ACP who wrote MKSAP are not the same smart people from the ABIM who wrote the boards. But smart people tend to stick together, so needless to say, there was no way to avoid buying MKSAP Edition 15.

I bought MedStudy too. Not sure if it worked the first time I took the boards, but given the fact that I did pass the first time around, superstition alone demanded a repurchase. And if I don’t pass this spring, I will be going to one of the 50 review courses that I got notices for, as long as they have a refund policy clause that covers unexpected court-ordered injunctions. The only reason I decided not to sign up for one of these anyway was that I didn’t trust myself to study in Las Vegas or Palm Beach or any of the other beautiful resorts where these conferences are held. If I fail, no doubt I will be so motivated.

And an as aside, if the ABIM does win its case against Arora, what does that mean for people like me who are about to take the boards or for those who recently passed them? Would a court victory against Arora mean that the integrity of the test has been compromised and call into question board results? Would those who used the Arora prep class have their scores invalidated as were those of recent GMAT takers who knowingly viewed test questions through a prep course?

As I finish writing this blog, I’ve come to several conclusions. One, any money spent that results in me passing the boards is well spent.

Two, dating back to the SATs, nothing about the process of passing these boards is particularly unique. The commercialization of important exams is inevitable, so if I don’t like it, I should go practice medicine in a communist country. And last but far from least: Stop procrastinating by blogging! Start cracking those books, any books, ASAP!

And just for the record, ABIM: I never attended an Arora course!