From the President

From the President

Town Hall on Continuing Certification Addresses OLA Content and Potential Future Enhancements

by Vincent P. Mathews, MD, ABR President


In February, the ABR hosted four town halls, open to the profession and the public, that allowed a forum for individuals to raise diverse questions and concerns regarding our programs. Overall, hundreds of candidates and diplomates joined us for a brief update and subsequent Q&A. The first session focused on Continuing Certification (MOC) and the three subsequent sessions were intended to allow discussion, specific to the individual disciplines, of questions regarding Initial Certification.

In the session on Continuing Certification, there were many questions regarding Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) and the subjectivity in attempting to standardize an understanding of “walking around knowledge.” The attendees were reminded that the ABR staff does not develop OLA questions; instead, volunteer colleagues from diverse practice environments create and curate the items. The individual members of these committees consistently challenge each other to maintain reasonable expectations for the participating diplomate; moreover, the Angoff rating system, as performed by the diplomate participants themselves, is the mechanism used to establish a fair and reasonable passing standard. The committees strive to represent reasonable breadth and depth of clinical knowledge while, at the same time, emphasizing information that fits the ABR’s working definition of “walking around knowledge”: knowledge that a typical radiologic professional would need in order to provide general clinical services without having to access reference texts or consult with a colleague. Many of our diplomates take advantage of the comment field to rate the appropriateness of particular items or subject matter; we encourage such feedback and apply this in future sessions as the content committees attempt to balance the coverage of the domain with an assessment of reasonably common problems in clinical practice.

There were several questions that involved consideration of trade-offs against inherent constraints in the OLA program (including the avoidance of increased costs for the diplomates). Board and staff will consider whether or not we could allow more flexibility for individuals who want to take larger segments of content (for example, monthly or quarterly). The program’s design, which was intended to leverage adult learning theory based on spaced repetition, would be negatively impacted, to some degree, by a more episodic system. To a great extent, this is an indication of personal preference; we have received positive feedback regarding the current method of weekly distribution of items. We will be actively considering the possibility of allowing personal choice and customization in this regard.

We also heard that some level of specialization for radiation oncology and medical physics should be considered as a future enhancement to the program. While this “practice profile” option is available to diagnostic radiology and, to some degree, interventional radiology, it is difficult to maintain psychometric reliability and fairness with small populations, including the disciplines of medical physics and radiation oncology. It is an even greater problem for nuclear medical physics, as a subspecialty of medical physics.

The town halls are intended to solicit valuable input from our candidates and diplomates; we sincerely appreciate the suggestions and feedback that we received and look forward to further conversations. We also welcome your comments on any element of the Board’s mission and programs.

Recordings of the town halls can be found here:

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