A committee representing the American Society of Anesthetists, Inc., the American Society of Regional Anesthesia, Inc., and the Section on Surgery of the American Medical Association was established to devise a plan for an organization with the specific purpose of certifying physicians practicing in the field of anesthesiology. The formation of The American Board of Anesthesiology, Inc., an affiliate of The American Board of Surgery, Inc., was completed on June 2, 1937. The Advisory Board for Medical Specialties and the Council on Medical Education of The American Medical Association approved affiliation in 1938. In 1941 the Advisory Board for Medical Specialties approved the establishment of The American Board of Anesthesiology, Inc. as a separate primary Board.
In 1977 the Society of Critical Care Medicine approached the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to discuss the possibility of obtaining official recognition for physicians with expertise in critical care medicine. In response the ABA and three other interested Member Boards initiated exploratory investigations into both joint and individual mechanisms for awarding such recognition. On March 21, 1985, the ABMS voted to permit the ABA and several other Member Boards to issue certificates in critical care medicine.
The ABA notified the ABMS in 1989 of its intent to subcertify in pain management and subsequently had discussions with other ABMS Member Boards with an interest in this subspecialty. ABMS approved the ABA pain management application at its March 1991 meeting with the condition that the subspecialty certificate be time-limited. On September 26, 1991, ABMS voted to permit the ABA to issue certificates in pain management that would be valid for 10 years. In March 2002, ABMS approved changing the name of the subspecialty to Pain Medicine.
In 1995, the ABA approved a policy of time-limited certification, so that all certificates issued by the ABA on or after January 1, 2000, will be valid for a period of 10 years after the year the candidate passed the certifying examination. The ABMS approved the ABA proposal for recertification in anesthesiology at its March 21, 1996 meeting and the proposals for recertification in critical care medicine and pain management at its September 17, 1998 meeting.
In 2009, the voluntary ABA Recertification program was phased out with the administration of the December 2009 Recertification Examination. Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology is the only voluntary recertification option for diplomates certified before 2000.