Focus on RO

Focus on RO

ABR Responds to Radiation Oncology Questions

By Paul E. Wallner, DO, ABR Associate Executive Director for Radiation Oncology; and David Laszakovits, MBA, ABR Director of Communications


The ABR constantly strives to improve communication with candidates for Initial Certification and certified diplomates. Although staff and associate executive directors (AEDs) routinely respond to queries, for many years, the Board has hosted a booth at major national stakeholder meetings where inquiries can be addressed directly by knowledgeable staff members. At the October 2021 annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) in Chicago, several questions were frequently encountered.

Some of the most frequently raised questions concerned participation in Continuing Certification (MOC). Several diplomates were uncertain how to verify their general Continuing Certification and Part 3 Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) status.

Participants can verify all elements of their Continuing Certification status by visiting myABR and clicking on the MOC/Attestation tab. Parts 1, 2 and 4 require only annual personal attestation. Current Part 3 OLA status is available on a dynamic basis.

Details of OLA participation was another topic of inquiry.

Participating diplomates receive two OLA questions each week. For radiation oncology (RO), the questions are selected randomly from one of the eight clinical categories included for Initial Certification (IC), and from a separate set of “non-clinical skills” (NCS) questions. The NCS category includes topics such as biostatistics, bioethics, quality assurance, patient safety, and clinical informatics. NCS material is extracted from the online syllabus. Participants may answer one or two questions each week. Each question remains available for four weeks, allowing “banking” of up to eight questions. Each year, diplomates must answer 52 questions. A regular annual review is provided on January 1, after the initial 200 questions have been answered. Participants can serve as “raters” for individual questions by volunteering to assume that role, completing a brief online training session, and giving a rating to subsequent questions. After a question has received a minimum of 50 individual responses and at least 10 ratings, the ratings serve as the passing standard for that question.

Several visitors to the ABR booth questioned how they might volunteer to serve the Board.

Options for volunteer service are described on the ABR website and include serving on one of the clinical category committees, the radiation and cancer biology committee, the OLA development committee, or one of the RO advisory committees. Volunteers can also serve as reviewers of organizationally submitted Self-Assessment Modules (SAMs). All ABR volunteers, including those holding non-time-limited certificates, must be active in Continuing Certification and in clinical practice. The Board actively seeks volunteer diversity in gender, race, ethnicity, geographic distribution, and practice type. Applications can be completed on the website and submitted at any time, but RO committee appointments are usually made by the trustees only once each year.

Residents who visited the booth were especially interested in the number of RO exams the Board intends to administer in 2022 and in subsequent years.

The ABR has announced specific 2022 dates for single administrations of each of the three qualifying exam (QE) parts (medical physics for radiation oncology, radiation and cancer biology, and clinical oncology) and for two administrations of the oral certifying exam (CE). Because of the intensity of resources necessary to develop individual QE parts, multiple annual administrations of these exam elements are not anticipated. Semi-annual administration of the CE will depend on continued refinement and successful deployment of the software platform and availability of a sufficient pool of trained and experienced examiners.  

The ABR is happy to respond to any additional questions and can be contacted at or (520) 790-2900. 

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