Boston Top Doctors 2009: Your Questions Answered

Who chooses the Top Doctors?
A company called Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., which each year publishes a guide to the nation’s top one percent of medical specialists, America’s Top Doctors, as well as various regional Top Doctors guidebooks, and is also the leading partner with national and regional magazines for “Top Doctors”feature articles.

[sidebar]How is the list compiled?
Each year, Castle Connolly sends out tens of thousands of invitation letters to physicians in private practice—randomly selected—as well as to the medical leadership of major medical centers, specialty hospitals, teaching hospitals and regional medical centers. Invited physicians can go online to a special restricted-access website and nominate outstanding physicians in various specialties and subspecialties “to whom you would send members of your family.”The process asks not only for doctors who excel in academic medicine and research, but also for those with outstanding interpersonal skills. One of the features we like about Castle Connolly’s national survey process is that it enables outstanding doctors in the Boston area to be nominated by their peers throughout the country, and not simply by other local doctors.

Physicians selected for inclusion in our “Top Doctors”feature may also appear as regional Top Doctors online at, or in one of Castle Connolly’s national Top Doctors guides, such as America’s Top Doctors™ or America’s Top Doctors for Cancer™.

Do doctors pay to be on the list?
No. Physicians cannot and do not pay to be on the Castle Connolly list. They are selected through peer nomination.

One of my doctors made the list last year but isn’t on it this year. What happened?
Getting on the list once doesn’t guarantee you’ll always be on it. At the same time, falling off the list doesn’t mean a doctor is any less good. Sometimes they’re moving toward retirement in the not-too-distant future, or assuming a mostly administrative role versus clinical. And sometimes they simply aren’t getting the same level of votes as in the past.

Why are there so few Top Doctors in some specialties?
Generally speaking, the number of physicians in each specialty is proportionate to the number of physicians board-certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) in that specialty. For example, more physicians are board-certified in surgery than in rheumatology, so there are more surgeons than rheumatologists on our list.

My doctor’s not on the list. Does that mean she’s not a good doctor?

Of course not. Because our list takes specialties and geographic location into account, and because it’s limited in size, plenty of fine physicians don’t appear on it. Bottom line: If you’re content with your care, and feel your relationship with a doctor is good, there’s no reason to change.