ABR Nuclear Medical Physics Certifying Exam Committee
By Robert A. Pooley, PhD; Kalpana M. Kanal, PhD; and Matthew B. Podgorsak, PhD, ABR Trustees; and Geoffrey S. Ibbott, PhD, ABR Associate Executive Director for Medical Physics
The ABR depends on hundreds of volunteers to fulfill its mission. One key function of ABR medical physicist volunteers is to write physics-related questions for ABR exams. This includes not only the medical physics qualifying, certifying, and OLA questions, but also physics questions for diagnostic radiology and radiation oncology qualifying exams. For question writing purposes, volunteers are organized into committees according to their expertise (see the table below). In this article, we will focus on the Nuclear Medical Physics (NMP) Certifying Exam Committee.
Medical Physics Question Writing Committees
Part 1: Qualifying Exam – General
Part 1: Qualifying Exam – Clinical
Part 2: Qualifying Exam – Diagnostic (DMP)
Part 2: Qualifying Exam – Nuclear (NMP)
Part 2: Qualifying Exam – Therapeutic (TMP)
Part 3: Certifying Exam – DMP
Part 3: Certifying Exam – NMP
Part 3: Certifying Exam – TMP
Continuing Certification (OLA) – DMP
Continuing Certification (OLA) – NMP
Continuing Certification (OLA) – TMP
The NMP Certifying Exam Committee has seven members: Patrick Byrne (Chair), PhD; Rachel Barbee, PhD; Vanessa Gates, MS; Sadek Nehmeh, PhD; Joshua Scheuermann, MS; Michael Yester, PhD; and Pat Zanzonico, PhD. As the trustee with the NMP portfolio, Robert Pooley, PhD, supervises this committee and participates with committee members in review calls and the annual meeting. Julie Howell and Dagoberto Esquer are the ABR staff members (“oral exam developers”) assigned to support the NMP Certifying Exam Committee.
The responsibilities of the NMP Certifying Exam Committee include:
- Writing and reviewing new questions.
- Reviewing existing questions in the pool for quality and relevance.
- Reviewing and updating the exam blueprint.*
- Selecting questions for each certifying exam.
- Reviewing the performance of certifying exam questions.
The committee writing cycle runs from April through mid-September. During each cycle, all committee members are assigned categories in which to write exam questions (also known as “cases”). It can take several hours to write a high-quality exam case, which includes appropriate images, expected responses from the candidate, potential follow-up questions for the candidate, and references.
Cases are reviewed by ABR editing staff prior to being presented to the entire committee during a remote review meeting. During committee review, cases may be accepted as is, edited during the meeting and then accepted, returned to the committee member with suggestions to make more significant edits, or rejected. Once accepted by the committee, a case becomes available to add to a future certifying exam.
The most recent NMP Certifying Exam Committee in-person annual meeting occurred in Illinois on August 26-27, 2022. ABR meetings now take place at RSNA Headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, and this was the first time the NMP Certifying Exam Committee met in this facility. The annual meeting was very productive. Committee members reviewed new cases, assembled two NMP certifying exams comprising 25 cases each (five questions per category for five categories), and conducted an additional careful review of each case to be administered during the spring and fall 2023 certifying exams.
Exam Case Management Software
The ABR recently developed a new software tool, the Radiology Assessment Development System (RADS), to handle all aspects of exam development and administration. This tool was implemented in April 2021 for qualifying and certifying computer-based exams as well as OLA questions. It was rolled out in June 2022 for certifying oral exams. NMP was the first certifying oral exam committee to submit cases via this new software system. In RADS, question writers can enter cases directly into the database, edit questions, add and annotate images, add expected responses from candidates, and search for questions to assemble exams. RADS also allows efficient review and modification of cases during review calls and the annual meeting. ABR staff have spent many hours not only developing this software but also converting cases from the previous system (a Word document casebook).
Exam Developer Responsibilities
The important work of the exam writing committees would not be possible without dedicated ABR exam developers. Working closely with exam committee members and the trustee, exam developers provide the following support:
- Maintain a dashboard of all information related to this committee:
- Committee roster with member contact information and term dates
- Committee photos
- Committee schedule
- Production cycle notes
- Data on writing assignments and case submissions
- Attendance of members at review calls and the annual meeting
- Annual meeting planning and preparation
- Annual meeting summary and productivity reports
- Manage communications with committee members
- Schedule review calls and the annual meeting
- Facilitate review calls and the annual meeting
- Convert cases from former casebook to RADS (this year only)
The NMP Certifying Exam Committee would like to thank Julie, Dagoberto, and all ABR exam developers for their outstanding organizational skills, careful attention to detail, and impressive knowledge of the process related to exam development. In addition, the ABR would like to thank the volunteers who serve on the NMP Certifying Exam Committee for making it possible to deliver high-quality exams every year.
* The current exam blueprints (content guides) for all MP subspecialties are described on the ABR website.