Why Sit the ESMO Exam?

Read Dr. Gil Bazo's experience from ESMO 2012 in Vienna

In 2012, seven Spanish doctors took and passed the ESMO exam. Three of them, the Specialist Dr. Gil Bazo and two Residents, Omar Carranza and Estefanía Arévalo, work at the Clinica Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona (Spain). In Spain, only 10% of oncologists have this accreditation.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Clinica Universidad de Navarra. It was first published on the clinic's website in Spanish.

Dr. Ignacio Gil Bazo and the Residents Omar Carranza and Estefanía Arévalo.

Dr. Ignacio Gil Bazo and the Residents Omar Carranza and Estefanía Arévalo.

Dr. Ignacio Gil Bazo and the Residents Omar Carranza and Estefanía Arévalo, from our Clinic's Department of Medical Oncology, were awarded the Certificate of Excellence of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) after successfully passing an exam in Vienna on 29 September, during the ESMO Congress. Dr. Gil Bazo is the first Specialist, and Doctors Carranza and Arévalo are the first Residents from our Clinic's Department of Medical Oncology to obtain this accreditation, which is a recognition of excellence by the highest European institution in this field and certifies their knowledge of the speciality. In this latest exam session, a total of 264 specialists took the exam and 189 successfully obtained accreditation.

Dr. Gil Bazo: "This certificate is an external recognition that attests on the basis of homogeneous criteria the level reached by the candidate in his or her overall knowledge of the speciality of Medical Oncology"

What does passing this exam prove exactly?

This certificate proves that the candidate has satisfactorily met the criteria of excellence for knowledge of Medical Oncology according to the standards of the European Society for Medical Oncology, which is the highest European institution in this field.

In what way exactly is this accreditation useful?

Although the European Commission has recognised Medical Oncology as a speciality since March 2011, there are still some countries, like the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway and Russia, which have not yet formalised this recognition. This certificate is thus particularly relevant in those countries, as it provides an official accreditation of knowledge in this field. Furthermore, it should be noted that this accreditation refers to overall knowledge of Medical Oncology.

What effort is required for the preparation of this exam?

A study of all aspects of Medical Oncology, including those that are usually not included in the training programmes for this speciality, such as haematological malignancies (including the diagnosis and treatment of various types of leukaemia and myeloproliferative disorders), knowledge of the biology molecular of cancer and palliative treatments. For Specialist oncologists who work in a specific area of Medical Oncology, as in my case, the training period for this exam is more complex, because we have to go back and study general aspects of Medical Oncology which do not form part of our daily clinical practice. For the Residents, however, this is an advantage, as all the general knowledge is still fresh in their minds from their studies. For more experienced medical oncologists, an extra effort is required, but we do have the necessary training, knowledge and clinical experience.

What sense does this exam have for doctors in countries where Medical Oncology is a recognised speciality?

In countries such as Spain, which have a specific training programme for this speciality, not many specialists take this exam to obtain this certificate. Indeed, in Spain, only 110 medical oncologists, out of a total of approximately 1000, have this accreditation, that is just over 10 percent. Specifically, at our Clinic, I was the first to obtain it. Its importance is that it is an external recognition that attests, on a homogeneous way,  the level reached by the doctor in his or her overall knowledge and excellence, in the Medical Oncology speciality.

So it is not common for specialists from countries with a recognised speciality of Medical Oncology, like Spain, to take this exam.

That is so. Spanish doctors do not usually take this exam, as they already have a specialist degree. However, it should be recalled that in Spain there is no final exam certifying the knowledge acquired during their training period in the speciality and there is, therefore, great variability in the knowledge acquired, depending on the medical teaching centre and interests of each Resident. Obviously, the exam is taken by a greater number of doctors from countries where Medical Oncology is not a recognised speciality, or is classified as a branch of Internal Medicine, or even of Pneumology, in the case of Thoracic Oncology, as in Germany. For example, in 2012, the country of origin of most of the candidates who took this exam was precisely Germany.

As mentioned earlier, you are the first Staff Doctor from your Department to obtain this accreditation.

Although I was the first Specialist in the department, it is likely that the other Medical Assistants will progressively obtain this accreditation. So far, we had not seen it as a priority, as the speciality is recognised in Spain. However, in this past year, in our Department, at the initiative of the Tutors who teach the Residents, Doctors José Manuel Aramendía and Jaime Espinós, it was decided to encourage the residents completing their last year to take this exam and thus obtain certification of the level of knowledge acquired by them in our Clinic during their training. Doctors Omar Carranza and Estefanía Arévalo, the two Residents in their last year of training in Medical Oncology, were thus able to successfully pass the ESMO exam.

How long does this certificate remain valid?

The accreditation is valid for 5 years. After that, the holder must be re-examined or obtain continuing medical education credits through participation in courses organised by the European Society for Medical Oncology.

Visit the Clinica Universidad de Navarra's website.

Clinica Universidad de Navarra is an ESMO Designated Centre of Integrated Oncology and Palliative Care.