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In the United States, a general practitioner has completed the one-year internship required to obtain a medical license, after having received at least an undergraduate Baccalaureate degree and a four-year Doctor of Medicine or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. A family medicine physician, however, has completed a 3-year family medicine residency in addition to the undergraduate and doctoral studies, and is eligible for the board certification now required by most hospitals and health plans.
Starting in the 1970s and 1980s, many board-certified family physicians in the United States began to consider the terms "General Practitioner" and "GP" as somewhat demeaning and derogatory, discounting their additional years of training.
A family physician is board-certified in family medicine. Training is focused on treating an individual throughout all of his or her life stages. Family physicians will see anyone with any problem, but are experts in common problems. Many family physicians deliver babies as well as taking care of all ages of patients. Family physicians complete undergraduate school, medical school and 3 more years of specialized medical residency training in family practice. Board-certified family physicians take a written examination every 6-7 years, as well as a case review of 20 patients from their recent practice, to remain certified. Three hundred hours of continuing medical education within the prior six years is also required to be eligible to sit for the exam.
Between 2003 and 2009 the board certification process is being changed in family medicine and all other American Specialty Boards to a continuous series of yearly competency tests on differing areas within the given specialty. The American Board of Family Medicine, as well as other specialty boards, are requiring additional participation in continuous learning and self-assessment to enhance clinical knowledge, expertise, and skills. The Board has created a program called the "Maintenance of Certification Program for Family Physicians" (MC-FP) which will require family physicians to continuously demonstrate proficiency in four areas of clinical practice: professionalism, self assessment/lifelong learning, cognitive expertise and performance in practice.
Certificates of Added Qualifications (CAQs) in adolescent medicine, geriatric medicine, or sports medicine are available for those board certified family physicians who meet additional training and testing requirements.