Focus on IR/DR

Focus on IR/DR

Initial Certification Advisory Committee Provides Insight During Tucson Meeting

By James B. Spies, MD, MPH, ABR Associate Executive Director for Interventional Radiology


James Spies, MD

The ABR is committed to serving all its stakeholders, and candidates for initial board certification are among the most important. To become certified in IR/DR, candidates must pass three exams: the Qualifying (Core) Exam, the computer-based portion of the Certifying Exam, and the final Oral Certifying Exam. Along that path, candidates have regular contact with ABR staff and our processes, and it is important for us to understand their needs. Just as we regularly seek input from diplomates via the IR Continuing Certification (MOC) Advisory Committee, the ABR has an IR committee to provide input on the initial certification process.

In selecting members for the IR Initial Certification Advisory Committee, we relied on the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) and other sponsoring organizations for recommendations. We were fortunate that all those invited agreed to serve. The members include candidates still in training who are going through the certification process as well as diplomates who have recently been certified.

The committee recently visited ABR headquarters in Tucson for an introduction to the ABR, its leadership team, and its operations. Over two days, the committee met with ABR staff leaders in customer service, exam services, exam development, and communications. The group reviewed the history of the organization, its mission, staff structure, and day-to-day operations. We reviewed how exam items are created and how exams are assembled. The review was detailed and showed the steps each item must go through to become part of an exam.

Throughout the meeting, committee attendees provided feedback, asked questions, and made suggestions to improve processes. Even more important, the committee members suggested ways for us to better connect with our candidates. The committee provided ABR leadership and staff with important perspectives, some of which are not always evident as we do our daily work. The meeting was a great step forward for our mutual understanding.

One concrete outcome of the meeting was a plan to provide additional support for those preparing for the oral exam. For most candidates, this will be their first oral exam, and they may have considerable apprehension regarding the format and the experience. We will work with committee members to record mock oral exam sessions for candidates to review. It is an opportunity to work directly with those in the process to provide better tools for exam preparation.

The meeting also provided an opportunity for the group to network, to meet in person, and to get to know one another better. It was an enjoyable, productive two days. It provided a much better understanding of ABR processes to the group, but more importantly, served to better inform us about the needs of our early-career colleagues. That is invaluable.

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