The role of the critical care specialist has been unequivocally established in the management of severely ill patients throughout the world. Data show that the presence of a critical care specialist in the intensive care unit (ICU) environment has reduced morbidity and mortality, improved patient safety, and reduced length of stay and costs. However, many ICUs across the world function as "open ICUs," in which patients may be admitted under a primary physician who has not been trained in critical care medicine. Although the concept of the ICU has gained widespread acceptance amongst medical professionals, hospital administrators and the general public; recognition and the need for doctors specializing in intensive care medicine has lagged behind. The curriculum to ensure appropriate training around the world is diverse but should ideally meet some minimum standards. The World Federation of Societies of Intensive and Critical Care Medicine has set up a task force to address issues concerning the training, functions, roles, and responsibilities of an ICU specialist. (C) 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.