Giving Back Remains Longtime Priority for ABR Volunteer

Giving Back Remains Longtime Priority for ABR Volunteer

Courtney Morrison understood the importance of volunteering long before she earned her PhD and was later invited to contribute her expertise and time to the ABR.

“I volunteered occasionally throughout high school and undergrad through a service club,” she said. “In grad school, I volunteered with an organization that provided social services, such as daily meals, a food pantry, English as a Second Language classes, tutoring, and immigration legal assistance. Since 2019, I’ve participated in global health outreach, mostly through AAPM’s International Council’s Equipment Donation Program.”

Courtney Morrison, PhD
Courtney Morrison, PhD

Getting involved with the ABR was a natural step. Dr. Morrison was approached twice by colleagues about joining a committee, the first time before she had even completed an application.

Her initial assignment came as an Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) question writer. Once she was a member of the OLA committee, she was asked to also become part of the Diagnostic Radiology Qualifying (Core) Exam physics team. She now works with both groups, inspired by her peers who also lend their talent and time to benefit their specialties.

“In terms of professional volunteerism, part of (joining ABR committees) was just the people I surrounded myself with,” she said. “I had really good role models who were very active in professional societies, and I saw what they were doing, and it interested me.”

Dr. Morrison was early in her professional career when she started ABR volunteer work. She completed her residency at Henry Ford in 2019 after earning her PhD in medical physics from the University of Wisconsin in 2017.

She quickly learned that writing questions for Continuing Certification participants was different from developing content for Initial Certification exams. Succeeding in OLA doesn’t require studying.

“I started writing OLA questions shortly after I was certified, so I had that knowledge because I had been studying for the exam,” she said. “It was still fresh in my mind, but I realized as time went on, those details were not walking-around knowledge, so there was definitely a learning curve.”

She listened carefully during her early committee meetings, soaking up knowledge from her experienced peers. Doing so made her a better question writer and contributor to group conversations.

“Going to the committee meetings was super helpful,” she said. “You could hear people’s feedback about your questions and learn if a question was too detailed or too technical. You learn how to write questions that are clear, concise, and easy to understand.”

Dr. Morrison prefers in-person committee meetings, whether in Chicago or Tucson, but finds that virtual meetings, made more prevalent by the pandemic’s travel restrictions, remain viable for getting work done.

“I prefer in-person because it’s just a different interaction when you’re all in the same room,” she said. “You have no distractions, and you can crank through a lot of questions. But I understand that there is value in virtual meetings. Certain people can’t travel, so it’s a way to engage everyone on the committee. I think both formats are important and have value.”

Dr. Morrison recently changed jobs, going from Henry Ford Health in Detroit to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She’s happy that both of her employers have given her the leeway necessary to volunteer, including duties for the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

“I don’t think I’d be able to do this if they didn’t allow me to have some time in my workday,” she said. “Doing this all after hours would be way too much.”

She encourages anyone who has the time to join an ABR committee to help ensure that their fields have qualified professionals.

“All exam questions are written by volunteers,” Dr. Morrison said. “If you want exams to accurately reflect what we need to know as professionals, and you want them to be high-quality exams, then you should get involved. It is within your power to make sure that exams are good for future candidates.”

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