OLA Talk Highlights Our RSNA Annual Meeting Experience

OLA Talk Highlights Our RSNA Annual Meeting Experience

By Vincent P. Mathews, MD, ABR President-elect

Over the past year, many conversations that American Board of Radiology staff and volunteers have had with diplomates have concerned Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA). Not surprisingly, that was also the case during the RSNA Annual Meeting, with its more than 50,000 radiology professionals and vendors in attendance.

OLA is a progressive assessment that gives diplomates a convenient Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Part 3 option to replace the traditional computer-based exam, which is now required every five years. It’s aligned with the other three parts of MOC: state licensure (Part 1), CME and self-assessment (Part 2), and participation in practice quality improvement activities (Part 4).

Because OLA is new – diagnostic radiology and DR subspecialties started last January, and it only recently began in a practice capacity for those in interventional radiology, medical physics, and radiation oncology – it’s understandable that diplomates have questions. The system is easy to navigate, but anything new raises curiosity. DR diplomates offered a great deal of praise this year as well as ideas that will help improve OLA through the many enhancements planned for 2020.

At RSNA, our booth in the South Hall was visited by close to 100 diplomates. Their main topics of interest were OLA requirements, MOC participation, and the International Medical Graduates (IMG) Alternate Pathway. IMG participants were given a two-sided card that clearly defined the steps they need to take toward gaining certification.

Some who stopped by the booth asked for OLA demonstrations, but most attendees were already familiar with the system. As of early December, 96.3 percent of eligible diplomates were participating in OLA; combined, they have answered more than a million questions.

In the Discovery Theater, Brent Wagner, MD, our board president, made an OLA presentation, as he has done at several association and society annual meetings. He and I also hosted a refresher course for those already involved in OLA. Both were well-attended and had audiences with questions and comments. As an experienced ABR volunteer and the person who will take over as executive director when Valerie Jackson, MD, retires in the summer, Dr. Wagner is an OLA subject matter expert.

The annual meeting also presents an opportunity to gather with key stakeholder groups, including our DR MOC and Initial Certification (IC) advisory boards.

  • identify, discuss, and work to resolve concerns regarding ABR actions or proposals, such as changes in exam content or operations;
  • investigate methods for improving communication between the ABR and trainees;
  • develop tools to assess the effectiveness of proposed modifications in communications; and
  • use these metrics to modify our approaches to communication.


RSNA is the biggest of the many annual meetings at which ABR staff and volunteers make presentations and answer diplomate questions. We have regularly attended major radiology society meetings since 2007, participating in more than 90 annual meetings and handling more than 7,000 candidate and diplomate inquiries. This past year, we started attending state ACR chapter meetings in areas where we have a high concentration of diplomates.

It’s our duty and pleasure to meet with diplomates and candidates, and we will continue that work in 2020 and beyond. Anyone with questions about OLA or anything else related to certification may contact the ABR at information@theabr.org or (520) 790-2900. We are partners in the certification process and look forward to assisting diplomates in all specialties as they work to achieve success.

This article originally appeared in Op-Med.

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