Board Initiatives to Strengthen ABR in 2021
by Vincent P. Mathews, MD, ABR President
As we begin the new year, the ABR is introducing a series of remote computer-based and oral exams that are a response to the unpredictability that resulted from the pandemic. The development and refinement of these exams is an ongoing process that is critical to allow our candidates to both adequately prepare for and complete the next steps toward board certification. We have received valuable input from stakeholder groups, including trainees, program directors, faculty, and department chairs, at regular intervals over the past year.
The remote exam solutions involve inherent compromises but have been designed with constant attention to the candidate experience while allowing confident scheduling without requiring travel. However, the exam models are extremely complicated and, in some ways, unprecedented in a high-stakes environment; the Board of Governors views the early phases of this transition as an iterative opportunity for the ABR to learn and improve the process. The fundamental goal of the exams remains the same: to recognize the skill and knowledge that characterize highly trained professionals in the radiologic sciences.
The ABR’s Continuing Certification (Maintenance of Certification, MOC) program includes Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA); participants have answered more than three million questions since its inception in 2019. The feedback that our diplomates have provided has been invaluable as we strive to improve the quality of the program, especially with respect to relevance of content.
Beyond OLA, the Board will be seeking to improve other components of Continuing Certification. Along with the other ABMS boards, the ABR looks to the 2019 report for the Vision for the Future Commission that outlined a general plan for improvements in the Continuing Certification programs. Subsequent work by multiple task forces, as a combined effort of the specialty boards and other stakeholders, has been synthesized into draft standards. These will be released for public comment in April. The ABR has already addressed most of the concerns raised in the report, but we specifically plan to improve bidirectional communication with candidates and diplomates in 2021 and beyond.
This year will see the recruitment of a record number of volunteers, including additional oral examiners for medical physics, radiation oncology, and interventional radiology. For diagnostic radiology, the Board of Trustees will consider enhanced exam question formats that will assess interpretive skills that have direct clinical relevance, especially with respect to formulating differential diagnoses. This year will also see increased emphasis on issues of inclusion and diversity as the ABMS and ABR strive to reduce potential bias in our exam processes. The Board also plans to review the data from the OLA platform to address questions of effectiveness and potential enhancements. Through all of this, the governing board holds the organization accountable for controlling costs with a long-term goal of maintaining or reducing fees.
The Board of Governors is optimistic that the combined efforts of our staff and volunteers will strengthen the ABR as it serves radiologic professionals and the public.