The Beam August 2023

The Beam August 2023

August 2023 | Volume 16, Issue 4

Two bald eagles

ABR Communications Director David Laszakovits saw this breeding pair of bald eagles in Ketchikan, Alaska, in June.


From the Editor

ABR Volunteers and Staff Embrace Change to Positive Effect

Mary S. Newell, MDBy Mary S. Newell, MD, ABR Associate Executive Director for Diagnostic Radiology


As summer flies by, many of us are experiencing changes at work. We may be welcoming and orienting trainees or associates as they settle into their new surroundings, accompanied by obligatory learning curves but also an injection of fresh personalities, ideas, and approaches. Below you will see examples of how our colleagues who serve as ABR volunteers, as well as ABR staff members, have initiated and embraced change, to inspiring effect.

In this issue of The Beam . . .

From the President and Executive Director

ABR President Robert M. Barr, MD, and ABR Executive Director Brent Wagner, MD, MBA, describe how post-exam surveys, this time specifically related to the recent Qualifying (Core) administration, assist the ABR in continuous improvement of exam administration and content.

From the Board of Governors

Rodney Campbell, ABR communications manager, highlights the “road less traveled” approach that led Marina I. Feldman, MD, MBA, to apply for and be selected as a new BOG member, starting in October.

Click HERE to read more.


Qualifying Exam Survey Results Provide Suggestions for Improvement

Robert Barr, MD, and Brent Wagner, MD, MBABy Robert M. Barr, MD, ABR President, and Brent Wagner, MD, MBA, ABR Executive Director


Our June Qualifying (Core) Exam was administered to more than 1,400 candidates in diagnostic radiology and interventional radiology/diagnostic radiology. This is our largest combined cohort (approximately half in week one and half in week two) and our longest exam (more than 650 questions for each group) each year. 

Unfortunately, there was a widespread slowdown in system performance on the first day of the exam, soon after examinees began signing in. Minutes after the problem was identified, our new communication procedure allowed us to reassure candidates via text message that the problem was on our end, and we were able to readmit nearly everyone within 30 minutes. Exam end times were adjusted appropriately to allow for the lapse in connection. The remaining sessions in weeks one and two worked extremely well. Although the process reminded us that delivering a remote exam to a large group of candidates is a complicated endeavor, we hope that, despite the brief interruption, the experience was less stressful and more convenient than an in-person exam would have been in our old model, which required travel to either Chicago or Tucson. 

Click HERE to read more.


From the Board of Governors

She’s Joining the BOG with a New Perspective

Marina I. Feldman, MD, MBA
Marina I. Feldman, MD, MBA

By Rodney Campbell, ABR Communications Manager


Marina I. Feldman, MD, MBA, took a unique path to become part of the ABR Board of Governors (BOG).

Dr. Feldman has not previously served as an ABR volunteer, but was one of more than 120 diplomates identified as part of an open call for nominations conducted by the ABR last year to name a new BOG member.

“I simply didn’t know all of the things that the ABR did,” said Dr. Feldman, a breast imager who’s with Elliot Hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire. “Having the opportunity to learn more about it was tremendous.”

Dr. Feldman met ABR Executive Director Brent Wagner, MD, MBA, at a Radiology Leadership Institute meeting last September in Boston. The following month, when she saw that Dr. Wagner was the contact person for the BOG position, Dr. Feldman got in touch.

Click HERE to read more.


From the Board of Trustees

Item Writer Training Ensures High-Quality, Consistent Exams

By Kyle Dignoti, ABR Editor; M. Elizabeth Oates, MD, ABR Trustee; and David B. Larson, MD, ABR TrusteeBy Kyle Dignoti, ABR Editor; M. Elizabeth Oates, MD, ABR Trustee; and David B. Larson, MD, ABR Trustee


The ABR is committed to producing high-quality, fair exams, and a network of volunteer writers is responsible for authoring meaningful exam questions. For new writers, the introduction to content creation begins with an orientation by the editing division, with guidance from the recently established volunteer-led Language and Style Committee (LSC).

All new content writers are invited to participate in an orientation led by editing staff. In this short but comprehensive training, writers are introduced to the ABR’s standards for well-written items. With so many experts writing content across various disciplines, the language and style guidelines keep content consistent and ensure that items are written in a similar voice.

Click HERE to read more.


Focus on DR

Longtime Volunteer Learning New Role as AED

Mary S. Newell, MD
Mary S. Newell, MD, ABR Associate Executive Director for Diagnostic Radiology

By Rodney Campbell, ABR Communications Manager


Mary S. Newell, MD, is cutting back on her duties at Emory University and the Winship Cancer Institute. But that doesn’t mean she’s slowing down much even as her active work schedule is pared.

Dr. Newell, a professor of radiology and imaging sciences at Emory and a member of its breast imaging division, is adding a title to her lengthy resume. This past June, she was named the ABR’s associate executive director for diagnostic radiology.

She has been an ABR volunteer since 2008, serving as an oral board examiner, member of the Continuing Certification (MOC) Breast Committee, chair of the Breast Certifying and OLA committees and a trustee, also serving as Board of Trustees vice chair for diagnostic radiology. Most recently, she was a member of the Board of Governors (BOG).

“I have tremendously enjoyed my time on the BOG and everything else I’ve done,” Dr. Newell said. “I knew that I was going to reach my term limit as a volunteer not too long from now. When the position came open, I thought that it seemed like a really great way to continue my participation with the ABR.”

Click HERE to read more.



Focus on IR

ABR IC Advisory Committee Benefits Stakeholders by Promoting Clear and Transparent Communication


ABR Interventional Radiology IC Advisory Committee members discuss their role as the bridge between candidates and the ABR in the following video.

For more information about the ABR’s advisory committees, please click here.


Focus on MP Header

Roles and Responsibilities of an ABR Trustee

By Matthew B. Podgorsak, PhD, ABR Board of Trustees Chair; Kalpana M. Kanal, PhD, and Robert A. Pooley, PhD, ABR Trustees; and Geoffrey S. Ibbott, PhD, ABR Associate Executive Director for Medical Physics


The mission of the ABR is to “certify that our diplomates demonstrate the requisite knowledge, skill, and understanding of their disciplines to the benefit of patients.” This mission is achieved through the collective efforts of the Board of Governors (BOG), the Board of Trustees (BOT), the executive staff, and the many volunteers overseen by these groups. This article will focus on the roles and responsibilities of the professionals who comprise the BOT.

As communicated on the ABR’s website, the main responsibility of the BOT is to “advance the quality, relevance, and effectiveness of the ABR’s exams for Initial Certification across all disciplines of radiology.” The BOT also plays a large role in setting the standards for the Continuing Certification (MOC) program. While the BOT focuses on the content and structure of the exams, all strategic planning, priority setting, and finances associated with exams are referred to the BOG.

The BOT currently includes 20 members with specific specialty and subspecialty expertise: 10 diagnostic radiologists, three interventional radiologists, four radiation oncologists, and three medical physicists. The number of trustees changes from time to time in response to varied workloads associated with trustee responsibilities.

Click HERE to read more.


Her Volleyball Career Served, She’s Now Acing Medical Physics

Kelsey Bittinger playing volleyball
Kelsey Bittinger, MS, playing volleyball at Kent State University.

By Rodney Campbell, ABR Communications Manager


After graduating from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in applied physics, Kelsey Bittinger, MS, took an unusual path. She loaded her belongings and moved to Austria to play pro volleyball.

“It worked out really well because I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do after graduation,” said Bittinger, who was the first Kent State volleyball player to compete professionally. “I didn’t want to force myself into anything that I wasn’t going to enjoy. I figured it would be a great opportunity to take a step back and do research about medical physics and possible programs.” 

Not long after she finished her senior college season, she went on a European tour with a club-level volleyball team. It was then that she met her agent, who negotiated a contract with PSVBG Salzburg in Austria. Fresh out of college with graduate school on her mind, she was off for a nine-month adventure as a European pro volleyball player. 

“I’m so glad I did it,” Bittinger said. “It was so crazy to move there. So many things were way more difficult than I ever expected. But it was kind of the same thing as college, where I got very close to some teammates and made awesome friends.” 

Click HERE to read more.


Volunteer Spotlight header

Expertise in Variety of Roles Earns Volunteer ABR Lifetime Award

Mark Mullins, MD, PhD
Mark Mullins, MD, PhD

By Rodney Campbell, ABR Communications Manager


Anyone who has questions about serving as an ABR volunteer should reach out to Mark Mullins, MD, PhD.

Dr. Mullins earned an ABR Lifetime Achievement Award this year after spending 15 highly productive years as a volunteer. His duties ran the spectrum: computer-based exam question writer, oral examiner, Angoff committee member, and Continuing Certification (MOC) Advisory Committee member. 

His interest started when, as a new physician, he ran across the ABR’s mission

“Early in practice, when I thought about the ABR and what it was there to do, I really liked the why,” Dr. Mullins said. “The why is to ascertain a level of excellence in radiology. I thought that volunteering was a good way to serve the community.” 

Click HERE to read more.


Continuing Certification Update

A Thousand Questions Later, They Still Like OLA

Ted Cardoso, MD, and Gaston Mendez, Jr. MD
Ted Cardoso, MD, and Gaston Mendez Jr., MD

By Rodney Campbell, ABR Communications Manager


They are part of a club so exclusive that there are only two members.

Ted Cardoso, MD, and Gaston Mendez Jr., MD, have each answered more than 1,000 OLA questions since they began participating in 2019. Both maintain specialty certificates in diagnostic/interventional radiology along with neuroradiology and pediatric radiology subspecialty certificates, giving them the opportunity to answer six questions every Monday morning.

They answer every question they receive even though OLA’s flexibility requires them to complete only half (52 questions per year for each certificate).

“At first, I didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve liked OLA,” said Dr. Cardoso, who’s an interventional radiologist in Wesley Chapel, Florida. “I look forward to receiving the questions. I can knock out six questions in 10 minutes or so.”

Click HERE to read more.


In Memoriam

Former ABR Trustee Remembered for Life of Service

James Youcker, MD
James Youcker, MD

By Vincent P. Mathews, MD, Former ABR President


It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Dr. James Youker, former ABR volunteer and trustee, on June 12 at Angel’s Grace Hospice in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

Dr. Youker’s life was one of service – to the medical community, to our nation, and to patients. Born in Cooperstown, New York, Dr. Youker stayed in his home state for both his undergraduate degree from Colgate University and his medical doctorate from the University of Buffalo School of Medicine. His residency in radiology at the University of Minnesota was briefly put on hold for two years due to military service as chief of radiology at a U.S. naval hospital. Following residency, Dr. Youker held positions at the Medical College of Virginia, the University of California San Francisco, and as a Research Fellow at the University of Lund in Sweden before accepting a position as chair of radiology for the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1968.

Dr. Youker led the MCW Department of Radiology for 45 years. His length of service granted him the distinction of being the nation’s longest serving academic chair at the time, and his leadership would inspire his residents and faculty to such a degree that he would see their children grow up to become radiology residents, still under his tutelage. He holds gold medals, the highest level of award and distinction, from the Association of University Radiologists, the Radiological Society of North America, the American Roentgen Ray Society, and the American College of Radiology.

Click HERE to read more.


Announcements header

Former ABR Executive Directors Receive 2023 RSNA Gold Medal

Valerie P. Jackson, MD, and Anne C. Roberts, MD
Valerie P. Jackson, MD, and Anne C. Roberts, MD


Valerie P. Jackson, MD, and Anne C. Roberts, MD, have earned the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Gold Medal, the organization’s highest honor. It is awarded annually by the RSNA Board of Directors to physicians who have rendered unusual service to the field of radiology.

Dr. Jackson served as ABR executive director from 2014 until her retirement in 2020. She is a fellow of the American College of Radiology (ACR) and received the gold medals of the Indiana Radiological Society, Society of Breast Imaging (SBI), ACR, and Association of University Radiologists (AUR). The Valerie P. Jackson Education Fellowship also recognizes her work with the ACR. She has been a member of the RSNA since 1982, including serving as president.

Dr. Roberts, former chief of vascular and interventional radiology at UC San Diego Health System, was the ABR’s first associate executive director for interventional radiology. She is a fellow of the ACR and the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR). In 2015, she received the SIR Gold Medal, the highest honor given in the field.

Before joining the ABR as staff, both Dr. Jackson and Dr. Roberts were ABR volunteers, including serving on the Board of Trustees.

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