From the Board of Trustees

From the Board of Trustees

Unique Role Bridging Two Boards Brought Challenges and Rewards

By Donald J. Flemming, MD, ABR Board of Trustees Chair


Donald J. Flemming, MDI have been privileged to be the chair of the Board of Trustees (BOT) for the past four years. I followed in the giant footsteps of Dennis Balfe, MD, and Donald Frush, MD, who preceded me, and I will hand over the responsibilities of the position to Matthew Podgorsak, PhD, in September.

The BOT chair is a unique and challenging position in ABR governance that was created when the Board was split into two bodies, the Board of Governors (BOG) and the BOT. While the BOG has primary fiduciary responsibility for all aspects of ABR governance, its primary focus is strategic, policy, and financial matters. The BOT’s focus is limited to the incredibly important task of advancing the quality, relevance, and effectiveness of ABR exams. The BOT comprises diplomates from diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, medical physics, and radiation oncology. The trustees are selected from dedicated ABR volunteers based on their past performance on ABR committees and whether their specific skills and experience meet the diverse needs of the BOT. Each discipline selects a vice chair who is later approved by the entire BOT.

Designed to be a bridge between the BOG and BOT, the BOT chair is selected from the BOT membership based on the skills and experience needed. The term is two years, which can be renewed once for a total of four years in the position. The BOT chair has all the responsibilities of a trustee and governor and is the only member of the Board who has this time-intensive portfolio.

The BOT chair is responsible for converting the BOG’s strategic vision for ABR exams into BOT action. One of the challenges for the ABR is that each discipline has a unique training paradigm and distinctive impact on patient care. As a result, assessments for each discipline must differ in content, timing, number, and methods. Despite these inherent differences, the BOT strives to create as much efficiency in exam development as possible by sharing best practices and through comprehensive discussion of new testing methodologies. One example is when diagnostic radiology trustees shared their first-year experiences with Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) item development with the other disciplines, which started the program a year later. This included successes and challenges, such as how to define walking around knowledge, the role of senior review in item writing, and the creation of rationales.

Other opportunities for improvement that are shared among the four ABR disciplines include volunteer selection and onboarding, development of efficient practices to improve the volunteer experience, feedback for item writing committees, standardization of language and image quality guidelines, and effective curation of item banks and exam blueprints.

Serving as the BOT chair has been distinctively rewarding. I am fortunate in this role to be directly supported by 19 fellow trustees, eight fellow governors, and a talented ABR staff led by an open-minded executive director. I am humbled on a regular basis by the dedication and can-do spirit of all involved in our collective mission to improve patient safety. The progress that has been made in our ABR exams in the past four years is a result of a dedicated team effort, and I will forever be grateful to have been part of it. 

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