Focus on DR

Focus on DR

Process Ensures that ABR Gets Qualified Volunteers

by N. Reed Dunnick, MD, ABR Executive Associate Director for Diagnostic Radiology


N. Reed Dunnick, MD

The ABR could not exist without the many volunteers who define the exam blueprints, contribute case material, write items, adjudicate problem questions, and determine the cut scores. In addition, our leadership — officers, governors, and trustees who determine policy and procedures — are all volunteers.

How are ABR volunteers selected? ABR diplomates who are participating in Continuing Certification, including diagnostic radiologists, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, and medical physicists, are eligible to serve as volunteers. The diplomate begins the process by submitting an online application to the ABR. In addition to one’s curriculum vitae, the application form asks for areas of subspecialty expertise and the committees on which the applicant is most interested in serving. It also advises applicants if occasional travel to committee meetings is expected.

The associate executive director (AED) of the ABR in each discipline (diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, medical physics, and radiation oncology) reviews each application, making sure the applicant has appropriate qualifications. The AED also looks for conflicts of interest. The most common conflict is when a potential volunteer is participating in board preparation activities, either oral presentations or enduring materials. Faculty are allowed to give conferences to their own residents that are designed to help them pass ABR exams. However, they are not permitted to provide such conferences for residents in other programs. Sometimes, faculty confuse “case-based teaching” with board preparation. Case-based teaching has become a common method of educating radiologists and is used in many departments, professional society meetings, and continuing medical education courses. Case-based teaching, unless promoted or advertised as “board preparation,” is not a conflict.

Enduring materials are educational activities that can be accessed at any time. These include books and teaching sessions that are recorded and available after the lecture or conference has been completed. An applicant is not eligible to serve as an ABR volunteer for five years after the publication of the book or recording of the oral presentation.

ABR volunteers are expected not only to have an appropriate level of expertise, but also to exhibit a high level of professionalism and to complete volunteer work in a timely manner. To help the ABR assess the appropriateness of the applicant as well as the committees on which they would be most qualified to serve, two references are required. To make it as easy as possible for the references, the ABR sends an email to both, asking them five questions. The radiologist serving as the reference may simply respond to the email. Once these letters of support are received and the applicant approved by the AED, the volunteer may serve on one or more ABR committees; however, appointment to a committee depends on there being an opening appropriate to the expertise of the volunteer.

Although vetting radiologists to serve as volunteers for the ABR is a multi-step process, it has been streamlined and is done entirely online. The process helps the volunteer understand the requirements for serving the ABR and assures the ABR that the volunteer has the qualifications needed to be effective in the position.

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