"Doctor, did you graduate in the top half of your class?"

"How about the bottom half?"

"Did you graduate in the top 5% of your medical school class?"

"What about the top 1% of your class?"

"Were you AOA?"

That's the national medical honor society known as Alpha Omega Alpha. That's typically reserved for the top 5% of graduating medical students in the country.

Ok, if you're like 99.9% of patients, you've seen a diploma on your doctor's wall in his office.

Maybe you even took the time to read it.

It will tell you WHERE he graduated and WHEN.

That's it.

It doesn't tell you whether he graduated in the top half of his class.

Nor does it tell you whether he was in the top 1%, top 5% or top 10%.

It doesn't even tell you if he got the lowest grades in his entire class.

All it tells you is that he graduated.

The better question really is whether it makes a difference.

Sure, we'd all like to believe that our doctor had the best grades.

We'd all like to believe that our doctor was the best student.

We'd all like to believe that our doctor is infallible.

The reality is that he might not have been the best student.

He may not have had the best grades.

He may have made mistakes along the way.

We just don't know.

What we do know is that we've been going to him for years.

We trust him.

You trust him.

We've never had a reason to doubt him.

We've never had a reason to believe he wasn't doing the right thing for us.

We always assumed he did well in medical school.

But it's been twenty years since he graduated.

He's been in practice a long time.

You've never thought to ask him about his grades in med school.

You always assumed they were good.

The reality is that NOBODY ever asks their doctor about their medical school grades.

Instead, what you SHOULD be focusing on is whether he's licensed to practice medicine in New York.

You SHOULD also focus on whether your doctor is board certified in his medical specialty.

A license to practice medicine, simply means he passed the required tests and graduated from medical school.

That's it.

It doesn't mean he's the best doctor.

It doesn't mean he's a world class expert. 

It simply means he has permission to practice medicine in New York.

Board certification is a different matter.

Board certification is the highest level of certification a doctor can achieve in his speciality.

In order for a doctor to become board certified, he must first graduate from an approved medical school.

Then, he must complete an approved internship and residency in his specialty.

Then, after graduating, he must take a two part board certification exam.

The first is written.

Then, in order to take the second part, he must be in practice for two years.

He must accumulate medical cases and experience in his specialty.

This is known as developing a case list.

Then, after two years of experience, the doctor must take an oral examination.

If he passes the oral exam, he will be board certified.

Doctors call this process becoming a diplomat, or diplomate, depending on who is spelling it.

Being board certified establishes that a doctor has the same basic knowledge and understanding as a doctor in any part of the country with the same board certification.

Again, just because a doctor has obtained his board certification doesn't mean he's a world class expert.

Nor does it mean he is better than anyone else.

It simply means he's achieved the highest certification a doctor can achieve in his specialty.

Imagine this brief analogy.

Your seventeen year old gets his license to drive.

The state has now given him permission to drive on his own.

Does that make him the best driver in your state?


Same thing goes for a doctor who just finished his residency training program.

He is now licensed to practice medicine.

The state has given him permission to practice.

After two years, if he successfully completes his board certification, that means he has achieved a baseline for the knowledge of doctors in that specialty.

When going to a doctor, look at his license to practice medicine.

Then look to see whether he's board certified.

You don't have to be board certified to practice in New York.

If he's not board certified, ask him why not.

The answer may surprise you.

So, does it matter where your doctor finished in his medical school class?


Then again, maybe not.

To learn more about board certification, I invite you to watch the quick video below...

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer