OLA Item Writers Ensure Relevance of Content

OLA Item Writers Ensure Relevance of Content

ABR exam and assessment items are created by volunteer radiologists and physicists. Before Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) was introduced in 2019, volunteers had already spent significant time developing OLA items for diagnostic radiology and DR subspecialty diplomates.

Varun Sehgal, PhD.

That process continued last year with interventional radiology, medical physics, and radiation oncology volunteers writing OLA questions for their specialties, which started OLA participation in January 2020. One of the writers was Varun Sehgal, PhD, a professor of medical physics in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Sehgal has been an item writer since 2016 and now contributes items to OLA’s therapeutic medical physics section.

He and hundreds of other volunteers are continuing their service because OLA is an ongoing process, and new questions are continually being added. Their experience makes the platform a fair and relevant way for participants to meet their Maintenance of Certification Part 3 obligations.

“Given that the emphasis of the OLA initiative is to highlight ‘walking-around knowledge,’ it is imperative that physicists practicing in the clinic be closely involved with the item-writing process,” Dr. Sehgal said. “This ensures that the concepts assessed via the OLA questions are relevant to the daily activities of the practicing physicist.”

Staying ahead of demand makes item writers’ jobs challenging. The work requires constant coordination among ABR volunteers and staff.

“The compilation of OLA questions is a team effort among item writers, item reviewers, and ABR trustees for the particular discipline, with excellent logistic and editing support from ABR staff,” he said. “Items, corresponding rationales, and relevant references are thoroughly reviewed and vetted by the entire panel to ensure that the final OLA item is unambiguous and contributes to continuous learning for ABR diplomates.”

Dr. Sehgal also participates in OLA and finds the platform helpful during everyday activities. Mission accomplished for him and his fellow volunteers.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in OLA,” he said. “The initiative is very well thought of and serves as an asset for me to advance and enhance my knowledge in my field of practice.”

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