Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Board of Directors at the ABIM: Will they defend their record? Or were they apathetic, incompetent, or deceived?

For readers that would like more detail, I will refer to my prior post, as well as to Dr. Westby Fisher’s comprehensive coverage of the ABIM scandal, on his blog: http://drwes.blogspot.com/

Today, in Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald wrote a piece, that updates this scandal on a mainstream media site. Link here: http://www.newsweek.com/ugly-civil-war-american-medicine-312662

With gems such as: “…the ABIM went from being a genial organization…to something more akin to a protection racket.” And, best of all: “the ABIM Foundation that does…well, it’s not quite clear what it does. Its website read like a lot of mumbo-jumbo.”

So, we have here a protection racket with its spin-off “mumbo-jumbo” cousin. For those counting, that’s mumbo-jumbo with a $30,000,000/year payroll (not total budget, just salaries and benefits between the two organizations! [source: tax records as documented by Charles Kroll]).

All of this brings me to this point. Some like to imply that blame for this scandal should be placed mainly on the prior president/CEO (the beleaguered Christine Cassel, currently the head of the National Quality Forum, who was forced to resign last year from high-paying corporate boards due to serious conflicts of interest: http://www.propublica.org/article/payments-to-ceo-raise-new-conflicts-at-top-health-quality-group).

However, sitting on the board of any organization is a serious endeavor that deserves to be treated as such. It is not only a CV-builder and not only a place to nurture relationships. Unless they can prove that they were actively deceived by Dr. Cassel, et al., the board members past and present are ultimately responsible for what the ABIM has become. The current names and bios of board members are readily available at the ABIM and ABIM foundation websites.

These men and women who have served on the board of the ABIM over the last ten to fifteen years have only two possible primary responses to this scandal and their involvement with it:

1) Defend the organization as currently constituted.

No human institution is perfect, of course. An adequate defense, however, would recognize that while there will always be minor shortcomings a clear and convincing argument is necessary regarding both the charges of impropriety (luxury townhouse, etc.) and how it is that the ABIM needs a thirty million dollar payroll. It is not easy to imagine such an argument being a cogent one.

2) Demonstrate that he or she actively voted against or otherwise fought against these developments.

Other than 1 or 2, the only other possible explanations for the board members' work at ABIM are the ones I list in my title: apathy, incompetence, or having been deceived by the leadership.

Which is it?