New Perspectives

New Perspectives

Visiting Scholar Seeking Feedback on Continuing Certification

By Rodney Campbell, ABR Communications Manager


Sara Hunter, MD
Sara Hunter, MD

Research performed by Sara Hunter, MD, the ABR’s first American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Visiting Scholar, is offering physicians the opportunity to share their thoughts on Continuing Certification.

Diagnostic and interventional radiologists who are participating in Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) should have received an email in January with a link to a survey. Dr. Hunter estimates it will take 25 to 30 minutes to complete the 21 questions; answers can be saved and the survey revisited later.

Her project is titled, “It’s Not Enough to be Up-to-Date, You Have to be Up-to-Tomorrow: How Longitudinal Assessment Encourages Radiologists to Stay Current.” She and her small research team worked for several months to prepare the survey. Her mentor, Kavita Bhatt, MD, also is assisting. Like Dr. Hunter, Dr. Bhatt is a diagnostic radiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

“One thing that is of interest for the American Board of Radiology is continuing to improve certification and optimizing it for radiologists.” Dr. Hunter said. “This project is a great opportunity to optimize OLA. I asked myself, ‘How can we make this better as a platform? How can we educate people?’ It’s not just an assessment tool. It’s something to help people improve throughout their careers.”

Dr. Hunter and her team used OLA elements in the survey. For example, each question includes an opportunity to provide feedback that goes beyond a simple “yes” or “no” answer.

“We want to hear that [feedback] because it’s so important,” she said. “If you’re using this every day and it’s part of your life, we need to make sure that it works to the best of its abilities.”

Survey results will be shared with the ABR, and Dr. Hunter plans to make presentations at a few society annual meetings, including the Association of University Radiologists. She also intends to go beyond in-person meetings.

“I’m hoping to publish this both within the radiology field and a broader field since it does have applications outside of radiology,” Dr. Hunter said.

Dr. Hunter and Visiting Scholars from other Member Boards meet each month with ABMS staff to discuss their research. The program facilitates research and leadership development through engagement with the ABMS and the certification community.

“This work has taught me that Continuing Certification is not just something that radiology does,” she said. “It’s something that all specialties do.”

As a former member of the ABR Diagnostic Radiology Initial Certification Advisory Committee, she has long had an interest in board certification, including all the thought that goes into developing appropriate exam questions.

“We went through the nitty gritty of how exam questions are created,” she said. “We practiced writing them, too.”

Dr. Hunter started her work on the advisory committee in 2019, not long before COVID hit. The ABR’s focus, with the assistance of many stakeholder groups, soon turned toward developing a secure and reliable remote platform for delivering computer-based and oral exams.

Her committee offered feedback on how the ABR should go about establishing the new system. The members’ perspective was invaluable because they were all going through the initial certification process as candidates at the time.

“It was difficult because you’re trying to see it from both sides,” she said.

Lessons learned as an advisory committee member proved valuable when Dr. Hunter worked on her Visiting Scholars project.

“Using what I learned through that, talking about how we standardize these questions, talking about what logistics do you need to build an online virtual platform for these questions, has helped me with this project,” she said.

The ABR plans to annually fund scholars in each of the four disciplines it certifies starting this year. Recipients will receive $15,000 to support the direct costs of research and travel expenses associated with program participation. Dr. Hunter believes the experience would be helpful for any of her peers, regardless of which career track they plan to take.

“This program has been a more fantastic opportunity than I even thought it would be,” Dr. Hunter said. “I would highly recommend anybody in the position of senior trainee or junior faculty to apply for it. This opportunity has been incredibly empowering.”

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