Volunteer Encourages Others to Follow His Path

Volunteer Encourages Others to Follow His Path

ABR volunteer Jon Strasser, MD, has advice for anyone who wants to improve how the organization measures candidate and diplomate knowledge: Apply to join a committee and help shape the ABR’s future.

“It’s always better to be a participant than a nonparticipant, and it’s very easy to get involved,” he said. “The ABR is always looking for people. There’s a role, whether you’re a community or academic doctor.”

Jon Strasser, MD
Jon Strasser, MD

Dr. Strasser, the incoming chair of the Radiation Oncology Qualifying Exam Thoracic Committee, has been an ABR volunteer for five years. His committee works on computer-based exams, so Dr. Strasser’s contributions include writing and reviewing questions.

He said the impetus for becoming a volunteer was improving the candidate experience.

“Somebody had suggested that I apply, and I thought that it seemed interesting,” he said. “I thought that working on the board certification process could be really meaningful. I hope that I’m helping to at least make the exam fair. I don’t like questions that ask percentages or minutae, but rather concepts that demonstrate a knowledge base.

Writing relevant questions is a challenge no matter how long a volunteer has been on a committee. Dr. Strasser said he constantly strives to improve his craft and ensure that the exam is a fair measurement of candidate knowledge.

“It’s been a very humbling experience sitting down and writing 10 questions a year,” he said. “You go through a lot of thought about how to test certain concepts and which are relevant for someone who’s practicing. You then try to figure out how to put that into a question.”

Kenneth Rosenzweig, MD, the thoracic committee’s current chair and a new member of the ABR Board of Trustees, said Dr. Strasser has been a valuable participant during meetings, whether in person or on virtual calls.

“Jon brings tremendous energy and commitment to his role as a question writer for the RO (Qualifying) Exam,” Dr. Rosenzweig said. “He provides excellent feedback to his colleagues on the committee to help them improve their work and provide a fair and equitable exam. He also has a wonderful sense of humor that helps make our long meetings more enjoyable.”

Dr. Strasser is an attending radiation oncologist and medical director of pediatric radiation oncology at ChristianaCare Health System in Newark, Delaware. He’s also an attending radiation oncologist at A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware.

A nonprofit system, Christiana serves several small- and mid-sized communities in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Dr. Strasser said his work there is a good blend of the academic and private sides of radiation oncology.

“I’m lucky that I have a great group of partners,” Dr. Strasser said. “We like to consider ourselves a pracademic practice (a mixture of private and academic work). We publish, we read, we have journal clubs, we talk about things. All those activities help make sure that I’m up to date.”

Dr. Strasser and the ABR know the importance of having volunteers from the academic and private practice communities. His experience on both sides gives him a broad perspective that helps when writing questions.

“I think our specialty is diverse, and I think what a community practice does versus an academic one is incredibly different,” he said. “When it comes to talking about board certification and Continuing Certification, we want to make sure that the people involved in the process are diverse and representative of that broad community.”

Working on an ABR committee has given Dr. Strasser a voice in the way his specialty’s exam is constructed. While he and his colleagues work within established psychometric boundaries, they are the ones deciding which questions are most appropriate for their audience. He’s seen how working directly with the ABR can make an impact.

“I think they’ve been receptive,” Dr. Strasser said. “Obviously, there’s a blueprint of how the exams must be written, and there are a lot of standards. But I think as we’ve talked about things that need to be covered, we bumped those items up to the Board of Trustees and those things ultimately get discussed and we get feedback. I think the ABR is definitely listening. They are willing to come to the table and make changes.”

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