He’s a Key Player for Writing Medical Physics Exam Questions

He’s a Key Player for Writing Medical Physics Exam Questions

Being an ABR volunteer can be challenging. Learning to write exam questions, for example, takes repetition, time, and patience.

At least one ABR volunteer has been battle-tested away from the committee meeting rooms. Kai Yang, PhD, coached his kids’ youth basketball teams for a couple of seasons and enjoyed the role. His daughter’s team was made up of kindergartners and his son’s squad included seventh and eighth graders.

“They were all recreation leagues, so they were playing to have fun, not anything competitive,” Dr. Yang said. “I really loved the experience.”

Kai Yang, PhD
Kai Yang, PhD

Dr. Yang has been a key player for the ABR for six years, writing medical physics content for the Diagnostic Radiology Certifying Exam. He started pre-COVID when committees met in person and has adjusted to working with his colleagues over Teams calls.

The format doesn’t matter because the work remains the same. It’s an effort he finds fulfilling, performed with a group of people he likes and respects.

“I really enjoy and love it,” said Dr. Yang, who’s joining a committee in April that produces medical physics content for the IR/DR Qualifying Exam. “It’s not about personal egos. We all work toward writing good questions every time.”

Every committee that produces exam content has the same task: Make the content as fair and relevant as possible. Dr. Yang believes candidates get a fair chance, just as he did when he earned his ABR Initial Certification in 2013.

“From my experience on the exam, it’s very balanced and well designed to test common knowledge,” he said. “If you spend time working and studying, I think you shouldn’t worry. This is not a tricky exam.”

In his day job, Yang is a radiology investigator at the Mass General Research Institute and assistant professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. He was encouraged to become a volunteer by Anthony Seibert, PhD, a former member of the ABR Board of Governors.

The two worked together at University of California, Davis, where Dr. Seibert served as Dr. Yang’s clinical mentor. Dr. Yang earned his PhD in biomedical engineering from UC Davis after completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering physics at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

“(Dr. Seibert) devoted his career to education and volunteering for the ABR,” Dr. Yang said. “He had a huge impact on me. I saw all the respect he got from the field, and I really look up to him.”

Dr. Seibert was convinced that Dr. Yang would be a successful ABR volunteer, so he encouraged his colleague to apply for a position.

“Knowing Dr. Yang’s humble demeanor, desire to help others, ability to get things done, and excellent knowledge of diagnostic medical physics, it was natural for me to suggest volunteering for the ABR as an opportunity to give back to the profession in a fulfilling and meaningful way,” Dr. Seibert said. “He has contributed greatly to the diagnostic medical physics portfolio of exam content, and I am sure he will continue to do so in the years to come.”

Dr. Yang’s volunteer work extends beyond basketball and the ABR. He also gives of his time to assist the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM). Dr. Yang is part of the organization’s breast imaging, CT, and Continuing Certification subcommittees.

He has served as the director of the organization’s imaging education program and oversaw the entire education program for last year’s AAPM Annual Meeting & Exhibition, developing the educational sessions and finding speakers. He was vice chair in 2022.

Dr. Yang and his team came up with the idea of sessions that allowed radiologists to teach physicists. The conference also featured expanded joint education across medical physics sub-specialties.

“We got really positive feedback from attendees,” he said. “The ABR experience really helped me to think outside of box and more about the big picture.”

Being a volunteer has become an important part of Dr. Yang’s identity. His duties extend to his time on the job. He often identifies cases that he thinks would be good ABR exam questions.

“I really think about educational materials,” he said. “I think about what part of physics would be worth teaching or asking in the exam. It helps me think more when I’m doing clinical work.”

Serving as a volunteer is an education for him, too. Learning to write appropriate questions to judge candidate knowledge is a team effort. Dr. Yang is still learning, six years into his duties.

“Doing volunteer work and getting feedback is really fun,” he said. “People say, ‘Oh, you did a good job.’ That’s what I want. I think my knowledge is enhanced by being a volunteer and my skills are improved. It opens my mind.”

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