The COVID-19 pandemic has not only been harmful to patients with obesity who contracted the disease, but also to many who avoided it. A recent study of 7,753 people published in the journal Obesity reported that while 24.7% of individuals with normal weight gained weight during the pandemic, those with obesity were even more affected, with 33.4% reporting weight gain.

For these Americans and others who are searching for effective ways to improve their health, there is some good news on the horizon: there will soon be more physicians with board-certified credentials to treat them.

A record 1,400+ physicians applied to take the 2021 American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM) certification exam, which tests doctors for their competency in treating obesity. Physician candidates will take the test between February 18-25 at computer-based testing centers throughout the United States and Canada and through live remote proctoring. The total number of applicants (1,407) represents a 40 percent increase from the previous class of applicants. Over the past two years, more than 2,400 doctors have applied for ABOM certification.

“To see this kind of growth in the number of doctors seeking to gain knowledge and comfort in treating patients with obesity during a year that has challenged physicians in countless and unprecedented ways is heartening. It shows that doctors now not only recognize the pervasiveness of this disease, but they are also ready and eager to help treat it,” said Dr. John Cleek, ABOM Board Chairman.

The 2021 exam candidates represent more than a dozen fields of medicine including internal medicine (38%), family medicine (30%), pediatrics (7%), endocrinology (6%), surgery (5%), gastroenterology (3%) and ob/gyn (3%). They come from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and include 71 physicians from Canada.

“As report after report showed the devastating combination of COVID-19 and obesity, we knew the disease of obesity would be top of mind for many Americans during the pandemic. What we could not predict was how the pandemic might affect the pool of candidates looking to certify as obesity medicine physicians,” said ABOM Executive Director Dana Brittan, MBA. “This growth means more patients will have access to care from physicians with the tools to treat obesity. And that is a positive sign for patients and the medical community.”