Applying for the pathology board exams is a daunting task, but this page is meant to give you some general guidelines and guidance, based on my recent experiences as an AP/CP resident. Please note that my experience might be different than others. For example, some international medical graduates may have to pay different fees for various portions of the applications process. Additionally, the process will be slightly different for AP or CP only residents (especially for the third step of the process - Applying for the Board Exam).
In general, there are three main steps.
1. Complete FCVS (optional)
2. Apply for a state medical license
3. Apply for board examination
The overarching main goal is to apply for your board examination (step #3). In order to do this, you need to be in the process of applying for a state medical license (step #2).
*Note, that you do not need to have actually obtained your state medical license (step #2) in order to apply for your board examination (step #3). Applying for your board examination only requires that you have documentation that you are in the process of obtaining a state medical license.
And lastly, FCVS (step #1) is a tool that can help you with applying for a state medical license (step #2). Let’s go through the steps, one by one:
This step is optional, but worthy of consideration: FCVS stands for Federation Credentials Verification Service. It is a service that will gather all of your credentials (from medical schools, graduate schools, examinations, etc.) and store this information in a central repository. This is essentially a professional portfolio that you can access throughout your lifetime. Upon your request, FCVS will send this information to any state medical board, hospital, or healthcare facility that has an agreement with FCVS. Many people sign up for this service now because it can be used again later in life, when applying for medical license in other states or jobs in the future.
However, this may not be a necessary step for you if the state you want to obtain a license in does not have an agreement with FCVS. On the other hand, using FCVS might be required by certain states.
Sample FCVS ProfileEdit
Here is a sample profile, to give you an idea of what your final profile will look like.
Cost of FCVSEdit
The baseline cost for using FCVS is $350. Additional charges may be necessary to cover costs incurred to collect examination transcripts, ECFMG certification (if applicable), return of identity document and other miscellaneous verification fees.The Subsequent Profile (any profile sent subsequent to your Initial Profile) costs significantly less, with a base fee of $95 with an additional fee for applications not submitted online. Additional profiles (the physician's profile sent to additional state medical boards, hospitals or health care entities, or yourself at the same time as an Initial or Subsequent profile) are available for $65 each, plus any additional surcharges.
Starting your FCVS ProfileEdit
Go to this website and create an account.
Step 2: Applying for a Medical LicenseEdit
How do I apply for a state medical license?Edit
Each state has a website, where you should be able to find application materials, deadlines, and fees. This website provides links to each state (although you might have to search around each state’s website a little more thoroughly to find the actual application forms).If this doesn’t work, try Googling something like “(insert your state here) state medical license application”.
Which state should I apply to?Edit
To apply for the board examination, you must be in the process of applying for a FULL medical license in any state (regardless of if you are actually going to work in this state or not). You must decide in which state you want to apply for a medical license. There are few options, based on different factors:
License Expiration Edit
- Depending on which state license you choose, the expiration dates are different:
- Some licenses expire on your birthday
- Some licenses expire on December 31 of EVEN years (i.e. 2016, 2018, etc).
In order to find out when a specific state license expires, this portion of the FCVS website provides links to most states' licensing applications and expiration dates.
Cost per state Edit
- Some state licenses are much more expensive than others. For example, Pennsylvania is known to have the least expensive license (approximately $80), versus other states, which can be $1000+.
- Why does this matter? Because you can apply for a medical license in a state that you are not even going to end up working in. You might choose this option purely to save money, in a situation in which a license may expire before you actually start your job/fellowship.
- Here are some examples:
- John will begin working in State X after he completes his board examination. State X licenses expire on the physician’s birthday. John’s birthday is April 1st. State X license costs $1000. A Pennsylvania license, on the other hand costs $80 and expires on December 31 of even years. If John applied for a full medical license in State X, it would expire on April 1st , which is before he will actually begin his fellowship in State X. Therefore, it is less expensive for John to apply for a Pennsylvania license (which will expire on Dec 31 of even years). He will use this license to apply for his board application. He will take the board exams and will receive his scores (using his full Pennsylvania license). After his birthday, he will apply for State X’s medical license and use this for his fellowship, located in State X. In this way, he has essentially saved almost $1000.
- Here is an example in which it is not worth it to apply for the less expensive Pennsylvania license: Lisa will be working in State Y after she completes her board examination. Her job requires a Full State Y License, which expires on her Birthday (November 1). Although she technically could apply for a Pennsylvania license for only $80, she would need to obtain a full State Y license to begin her job on July 1st anyway. Since the State Y license won't expire between now and July 1st, she might as well only apply for the State Y license.
Note that although you do not need to have obtained a full medical license when you apply for your board exam, you DO need to have obtained the full license to receive your board examination scores! So you must actually apply for a full license AND eventually receive your full medical license. You cannot begin to apply for a license, use that to take the exams, and never complete the application. If you do this, you will not receive your examination score.
Should I apply for a full or limited license? Edit
To apply for the board exam and receive your results, you need to have applied for and received a FULL medical license. However, if you are like John (see example above) and are using a different license for your job or fellowship, you might be able to save money and obtain a limited medical license (if your job or fellowship allows this) because in most states, a limited license is less expensive than a full license. Ask your future job or program director if a limited medical license is sufficient or if you need a full license.
Please note that to apply for the boards and receive board exam results, you will need to apply for and then receive a FULL license. Obtaining a limited license should only be an option for your future job or fellowship, NOT FOR THE BOARD EXAMINATIONS.
What kind of information will I need to have ready for this state application? Edit
Be prepared to fill out lots of forms, some of which might need to be notarized. Some states require a letter of good standing from your program director, an updated CV, a copy of your medical school diploma, etc. You might also need to request a “self-query profile” from a third party like the AMA. Instructions should be on each state’s application.
Step 3: Applying for the Board Examination Edit
The deadline for submitting the board application is January 15th. You can complete it after this date, but you might face some hefty fees. The main website is abpath.org . First, create a User Login. If you are currently part of a residency training program, then your program director should give you your username and password. Next, you can begin your online application. This is a nice PDF, provided by the American Board of Pathology that explains many of the rules.
What information will I need to supply? Edit
Documentation of 50 Autopsies
According to Booklet of Information on abpath.org, in order to count an autopsy towards your 50, you must have actively participate in the following (as appropriate to the case):
- Review of history and circumstances of death
- Gross dissection
- Review of microscopic and laboratory findings
- External examination of the body
- Preparation of written description of gross/microscopic findings
- Development of opinion on cause of death
- Review of autopsy report with teaching staff
You must upload a document. This can be in the form of the Word document form http://abpath.org/AutopsyForm.dot that has been converted to a PDF (see instructions on the top of the Word doc. Freepdfconvert.com is a nice webpage where you can upload a Word document and it will convert it to a PDF file). Alternatively, if you have been completing your ACGME case log, you can use this log. The ACGME log cases must be consecutively numbered and include the date of the autopsy, age, sex, and primary pathology diagnosis/cause of death (e.g. as would be reported on a death certificate).
“The applicant must have completed at least 50 autopsies by the time the application for certification is submitted. The ABP requires that all non-forensic autopsies counted toward autopsy requirements must have an autopsy permit (not an anatomic disposal). Residents should report only those autopsies in which they have an active role (as appropriate to the case) in each of the following: review of history and circumstances of death; external examination of the body; gross dissection including evisceration; review of microscopic and lab findings; preparation of written description of gross and microscopic findings; development of opinion on cause of death; review of autopsy report with teaching staff. Please see the Booklet of Information regarding the fetal autopsy policy.”
You must also list:
- Number of shared autopsies
- Number of forensic autopsies
- Number of limited autopsies
- Number of fetal autopsies
How many fetal autopsies are allowed?Edit
The ABP has a new policy on use of fetal autopsies (effective 2013) to satisfy the 50 autopsy requirement:
1) A fetal autopsy is defined as one that is performed on a fetus dying in-utero or born dead.
2) There must be a signed autopsy consent form for the autopsy. An anatomic disposal permit is not acceptable.
3) The fetus should be intact. Gross and microscopic examination of the placenta must be part of the autopsy report.
4) No more than 5 fetal autopsies that have no anatomic, congenital, infectious, or genetic abnormalities (Final Anatomic Diagnosis = intra-uterine fetal demise) can count toward the 50 required autopsy cases.
5) Macerated fetuses can count for no more than 2 of the 5 fetal autopsies.
You will need to provide:
1) A copy of your full and unrestricted medical license, OR
2) A copy of the letter or email received from the medical licensing board stating that they are in receipt of your application for licensure AND proof of successful completion of USMLE Step 3.
Number of specimensEdit
You must list:
- Surgical specimens specimens examined by you (*remember that the ACGME requires at least 2000)
- Number of cytopathologic specimens examined by you (*remember that the ACGME requires at least 1500)
- Number of bone marrows performed by you (*none are required by ACGME)
- Number of clinical pathology consultations participated in by you (any interaction between you and another health care professional regarding handling of specimens and/or interpretation of data. These consultations may be written or oral and do not have to be billable. Do not include written anatomic pathology reports.)
You must list all of the rotationsyou have completed. If applying for AP/CP, you should have completed at least 18 months of AP and 18 months of CP.
You will be asked to choose how many months of the following AP rotations you have taken: Autopsy, Surgical Pathology, Cytopathology, Pedaitric pathology, Foreniscs, Neuropathology, Informatics, Lab Management, Molecular Pathology, Research, Other.
You will be asked to choose how many months of the following CP rotations you have completed: Chemical Pathology, Hematology, Bloodbank/Transfusion Medicine, Microbiology, Medical Microscopy, Informatics, Laboratory management, Molecular Pathology, Research, Other.
The options are in 0.5 increments, for example: 1 month, 1.5 months, 2 months, 2.5 months, etc.
Need assistance with your board application? Edit
The ABP staff are extremely friendly and helpful. This is a contact list. Based on the types of questions people in our situation have, Mary is usually the best person to talk to.
I've "finalized" my board application. What's the next step? Edit
This is copied directly from the ABP website document: "Instructions and Information for Candidates for Certifying Examinations"
1. After you finalize your online application, PATHway will acknowledge receipt of the application and fee with an e-mail. A checkmark on your PATHway Board Correspondence page indicates your ‘Application and payment have been received.’ At the same time, your program director will receive an e-mail that the application is available for review and the evaluation form is available to complete. If you trained in more than one program, a secondary evaluation form is made available to any previous program directors. A checkmark indicates ‘Application to Program Director for review.’
2. When your program director has approved the application and submitted the evaluation, checkmarks appear in the ‘Application to Program Director for review-Completed’ and ‘Evaluation 1 received’ boxes. If you trained in more than one program, a checkmark appears in the ‘Evaluation 2 received’ box when that evaluation is received.
3. When the program director has completed review/submission, your application is reviewed by the Application Coordinator. Receipt of your medical license, medical school diploma, and Step 3 score will be acknowledged during this review. Please do not call or e-mail the Board office regarding the status of your application; applications are reviewed in the order in which they are received and it is possible that your application may not be reviewed for several weeks after the deadline.
4. When the Application Coordinator approves the application and documentation, a checkmark appears in the ‘Application to Credentials Committee’ box and the application is queued for review by the Credentials Committee. The Credentials Committee determines whether or not you will receive a period of board qualification for an examination, and the dates of the period of qualification. If your application is approved, a checkmark appears in the ‘Application to Credentials Committee-Approved’ box and your period of board qualification is posted to the board qualification table. The maximum period of board qualification is 3 years for candidates who complete training prior to January 1, 2008, and 5 years for candidates completing training after January 1, 2008. Each candidate completing training after January 1, 2008 will be allowed to take the examination(s) for which they are qualified a maximum of 5 times during the period of qualification. If your application is not approved, you will receive an email and there will be comments noted on your PATHway Board Correspondence page. A candidate will not be admitted to an examination unless declared qualified by the Credentials Committee.
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