Pathways to IR/DR Certification
by Anne M. Covey, MD, ABR Trustee
As we usher in the new year, it is a good time to review changes that will occur in interventional radiology (IR) training pathways and their impact on interventional radiology/diagnostic radiology (IR/DR) certification. In June of this year, the last traditional IR fellows will graduate. Going forward, all IR graduates will be trained in either integrated or independent IR residencies. The first independent IR residency (with a duration of either two years or one year following an early specialization in IR [ESIR] during DR residency) begins in July 2020. Integrated IR residencies also continue to increase in number, and as of October 2019, there are 85 ACGME-accredited integrated IR residency programs. Finally, this is the last year the IR/DR Transition and Alternate Practice Pathways will be offered. All these changes have a direct impact on the IR/DR Certifying Exam and the choices that trainees have for certification.
At this time, the pathways for IR/DR certification are:
- Completion of a traditional IR fellowship, which allows candidates to choose to take the DR Certifying Exam and then separately take the IR/DR Certifying Exam (oral component only) OR they can choose to take the full IR/DR Certifying Exam (computer-based and oral component) in a single day. Fellows must have 12 months of practice experience before sitting for the IR/DR Certifying Exam. However, they may sit for the DR Certifying Exam three months after completion of their fellowship, giving them the option to take the DR Certifying Exam first, followed a year later by the IR/DR Certifying oral exam. The last IR fellows will graduate in June 2020 and can take the IR/DR Certifying Exam up to six years thereafter. The application deadline for the fall IR/DR Certifying Exam is February 28 each year.
- Completion of an IR residency (either an integrated IR residency or an independent IR residency following a DR residency) and successful completion of the IR/DR Certifying Exam (computer-based and oral components). This examination may be taken three months after the completion of IR training.
- The Transition Pathway allows candidates who are DR certified and who completed an ACGME-accredited IR fellowship more than 10 years ago but did not obtain an IR Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) to take the IR/DR Certifying Exam (oral component only) in October. Successful candidates will be IR/DR certified. This pathway expires in 2020 – candidates eligible for the Transition Pathway must apply by February 28, 2020, for the October 2020 exam to take advantage of this opportunity.
- The Alternate Practice Pathway allows candidates who trained in the United States or Canada, are DR certified, and have spent at least two years working as IR faculty at an institution with an ACGME-accredited IR program to obtain IR/DR certification. This pathway expires in 2020 – candidates eligible for the Alternate Practice Pathway must apply by February 28, 2020, for the October 2020 exam.
- A five-year IR/DR International Medical Graduate (IMG) Alternate Pathway for candidates who have completed IR training outside of the United States or Canada. These candidates are eligible for the IR/DR certification by completing five consecutive years (with at least two focused on IR) of IR training, fellowship, and/or a full-time faculty appointment at a single institution with an ACGME-accredited IR training program. For a complete set of requirements to be eligible for this pathway, see https://www.theabr.org/interventional-radiology/initial-certification/international-medical-graduates-alternate-pathway
- Finally, a two-year IR/DR IMG Alternate Pathway is available for candidates who have completed the DR IMG Pathway and an additional two consecutive years of an IR residency, fellowship, and/or full-time faculty appointment at a single institution with an ACGME-accredited IR training program. This pathway is only available for a limited time – candidates eligible for this pathway must complete training and submit an application by February 28, 2023.
The common requirement of all the pathways leading to the ABR specialty certificate in IR/DR is successful completion of the oral component of the IR/DR Certifying Exam. The content of the exam was reviewed in the previous issue of The Beam. In October 2019, almost 400 candidates took the oral component of the IR/DR Certifying Exam to become IR/DR certified. These candidates were certified in DR at the time of the exam. A growing number of candidates, approximately 12 percent in 2019, took the full IR/DR Certifying Exam by completing both the computer-based (single best answer multiple-choice) and oral components as their first Certifying Exam. As more IR candidates come through IR residency programs, the number taking the full IR/DR Certifying Exam will increase.
As a reminder, the deadline to apply for the October 2020 IR/DR Certifying Exam is February 28, 2020.