News from the ABR

The Beam December 2021

December 2021 | Volume 14, Issue 6

ABR booth at RSNA 2021ABR staff ready to assist candidates and diplomates at the 2021 Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meeting.


From the Editor


As Busy Year Ends, We Look Forward to Continued Exam and OLA Improvements 

By J. Anthony Seibert, PhD, ABR Governor


The end of the year enables us to look back at the accomplishments of 2021 and forward to 2022 with renewed optimism of a “normal” ABR exam schedule and continued improvements in the exam process. Implementation of remote exam infrastructure was solidly underway last January, when we had the daunting mission of delivering twice the number of computer-based and oral exams for candidates who had missed the opportunity in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic and for those in 2021 who had a slightly delayed time frame. A very heavy lift indeed, particularly considering the work-at-home mandates of ABR staff, the unknown aspects of the remote exam platform, and the compressed time frame requirements.

Under the leadership of ABR Executive Director Brent Wagner, progress was made month by month, with the successful completion of the 2020 computer-based and oral exams by May 2021, and for the 2021 exams by the end of October. Throughout this effort, improvements for the exam delivery process were implemented using feedback from candidates, trustees, and ABR staff. While there were some disruptions to a small fraction of candidates because of connectivity and software issues, exam outcomes for all disciplines were validated with psychometric analysis and found to be reliable and consistent, comparable to exams from previous years. Many thanks to the ABR staff for their dedication and perseverance in achieving these amazing accomplishments.

Click HERE to read more.



ABMS Releases New Continuing Certification Standards

Vince Mathews, MD, ABR PresidentBy Vincent P. Mathews, MD, ABR President


Last month, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) released new standards for Continuing Certification.1 This effort began in 2018 with the establishment of the independent Vision Commission, which “brought together multiple stakeholders to advise on redesigning continuing board certification to be more meaningful, relevant, and valuable to diplomates while remaining responsive to the needs of patients, hospitals and health systems, and others who expect that diplomates are maintaining their knowledge and skills to provide quality specialty care.” (Standards for Continuing Certification – American Board of Medical Specialties [])

In the interim, multiple task forces were organized within the ABMS. Extensive internal dialogue and involvement of external stakeholders followed, with the intent to improve Continuing Certification programs across the Member Boards. For the ABR, most of the standards refer to requirements that are already integral to our existing programs, and the medical physicists, radiologists, and radiation oncologists who participate in the program will see no increase in cost or significant change in requirements.

Click HERE to read more.



Board Meetings Focus on Fairness, Transparency, and Innovation

ABR Executive Director Brent Wagner, MD, MBABy Brent Wagner, MD, MBA, ABR Executive Director


The ABR trustees and governors met remotely over several days in late September and early October. Although the agenda spanned a broad range of issues, the discussions were focused on themes that stressed the organization’s mission: to certify that our diplomates demonstrate the requisite knowledge, skill, and understanding of their disciplines to the benefit of patients. Embedded in this focus was the desire to continue to move the ABR in a direction that supports the candidates and diplomates by being fair, transparent, and willing to innovate, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  A few highlights from the meeting are detailed below.

Improvements in Remote Exam Platforms: Because of the inability to offer exams throughout most of 2020, the ABR administered approximately twice as many in 2021 as we did in 2019, allowing candidates to progress toward initial certification as quickly as possible. In our discussions, the board supported the further development of enhancements that would allow continued use of a remote platform, with specific improvements in reliability for the candidates in the oral and computer-based exams. The board viewed the investment as important not only to enhance the overall user experience but also to support lower exam administration costs in the future.  

Click HERE to read more.




ABR Ranks High in Organizational Transparency

John A. Kaufman, MD, ABR Secretary-Treasurer; and David J. Laszakovits, MBA, ABR Director of CommunicationsBy John A. Kaufman, MD, ABR Secretary-Treasurer; and David J. Laszakovits, MBA, ABR Director of Communications


The ABR Board of Governors is steadfast in its commitment to responsibly manage all financial aspects of the business to effectively meet the organization’s mission. This commitment includes an independent third-party annual financial audit and making our Form 990 and financial statements public.

In October, we posted on our website the most recent financial statements for the ABR and the ABR Foundation. Postings include the 2020 990 forms and statements of financial standing for the year ending December 31, 2020.

Guidestar Platinum Transparency 2021 LogoAdditionally, since 2017, the ABR has earned GuideStar’s Platinum status, the highest level of organizational transparency recognition. GuideStar specializes in reporting on nonprofit organizations in the United States and offers four seals to represent an organization’s level of transparency. As of April 2021, more than 78,000 nonprofits had one of these seals, which range from Bronze to Platinum. Only 15% of those have achieved Platinum status.

For more information, check out the ABR’s GuideStar profile



New OLA Practice Profile Options Increase Flexibility for Diplomates

N. Reed Dunnick, MDBy N. Reed Dunnick, MD, ABR Associate Executive Director for Diagnostic Radiology


To give participants an opportunity to better align their Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) questions with their current practice, the practice profile rules will change next month for diagnostic radiology (DR) diplomates. The new options will allow more flexibility in how a profile is configured.

Currently, DR diplomates can select up to three clinical practice areas (CPAs). If only one area is chosen, 100% of content will be in that area. If two areas are selected, the content must be divided evenly between them, with half in each selected CPA. Similarly, if a diplomate makes three selections, one-third of questions must come from each selected area.

Starting January 1, 2022, DR diplomates will be able to choose up to four CPAs and have the option of dividing the percentage of questions among them as they wish, as long as no area is reduced to less than 25% and all areas add up to 100%.

Click HERE to read more.



New OLA Practice Profile Options Increase Flexibility for IR Diplomates

James Spies, MDBy James B. Spies, MD, MPH, ABR Associate Executive Director for Interventional Radiology


Since the initiation of Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) at the beginning of 2020, many interventional radiology diplomates have asked for the opportunity to have more diagnostic imaging in the program. This has been of particular interest among those who do part-time interventional and part-time diagnostic imaging. Since OLA’s inception, all those who hold an IR/DR certificate have been required to take 100% IR content, which did not match the practices of many IR diplomates.

In response to that request, the ABR Board of Governors has approved a change in OLA practice profile rules for IR diplomates. Starting January 1, 2022, IR diplomates will be able to select up to two other clinical practice areas (CPAs). At least 50% of questions will need to be from IR, and a minimum of 25% of content can come from each optional CPA. The new options will allow more flexibility in how a profile is configured and enable diplomates to set up a profile that better represents their current practice.

Click HERE to read more.


Qualifying (Core) Exam Study Resources header


New Qualifying (Core) Exam Study Resources Now Available on the ABR Website

Donald J. Flemming, MD, Chair, ABR Board of Trustees; and Desiree E. Morgan, MD, ABR TrusteeBy Donald J. Flemming, MD, Chair, ABR Board of Trustees; and Desiree E. Morgan, MD, ABR Trustee


In response to feedback from the ABR Diagnostic Radiology (DR) and Interventional Radiology (IR) Initial Certification Advisory Committees, the American Alliance of Academic Chief Residents in Radiology (A3CR2), the Association of Program Directors in Radiology (APDR), and the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR), the ABR has updated the website resources available to candidates preparing for the Qualifying (Core) Exam. The purpose of these updates is to improve DR and IR/DR candidates’ understanding of what to expect and how best to prepare.

The Qualifying (Core) Exam is designed to assess a candidate’s skills and knowledge over the broad scope of diagnostic radiology and interventional radiology. The content covered includes clinical practice domains across all imaging modalities, imaging physics, and noninterpretive skills. The broad nature of the exam is intimidating for many candidates. To help improve understanding of the exam’s scope, the new website resources define it at both a general and a more detailed level.

Click HERE to read more.



OLA Questions for MP Participants Continually Being Improved

Kalpana Kanal, PhD, ABR TrusteeBy Kalpana M. Kanal, PhD, ABR Trustee


It has been almost two years since the ABR implemented Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) for medical physicists. OLA is based on the concept of walking around knowledge. This is knowledge that a typical medical physicist would need in order to provide general clinical medical physics (MP) services without having to access reference texts or consult with a colleague.

At the time of this writing, the following MP OLA statistics are available:

  • Over 3,400 diplomates (99.5%) have answered at least one OLA question and 466,000 OLA questions have been answered.
  • 49% of participants have agreed to serve as OLA question raters.
  • Fewer than 5% of OLA questions have been declined.
  • The average response time for 60-second questions is 29 seconds and for 180-second questions is 60 seconds.
  • 94% of participants have completed their 2021 OLA annual progress requirement.

Click HERE to read more.



Radiation Oncology to Provide Additional Preparation Resources for Examinees

Paul E. Wallner, DO, ABR Associate Executive Director for Radiation Oncology; Brian J. Davis, MD, PhD, ABR TrusteeBy Paul E. Wallner, DO, ABR Associate Executive Director for Radiation Oncology; Brian J. Davis, MD, PhD, ABR Trustee; and Anthony M. Gerdeman, PhD, ABR Director of Exam Services


The ABR trustees recognize that the three parts of the Radiation Oncology (RO) Initial Certification (IC) computer-based Qualifying Exam (QE) – Medical Physics for Radiation Oncology (MP), Radiation and Cancer Biology (RCB), and Clinical Oncology (CO) – represent high-stakes, high-stress experiences for residents. The personal and training impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the ABR’s associated need to convert exam administration to a new, ABR-developed remote platform, likely increased that stress. The ability to take the individual exam parts in a site of the examinee’s selection without need for travel or group mingling may ease these levels of concern. Because exam content development remained essentially unchanged, the primary areas of concern seemed to be reliability of internet connectivity and an ability to navigate the exam instrument comfortably and easily during administrations.

ABR exam development teams provided minimum hardware and software requirements for examinees to reduce connectivity problems and concerns. The teams also created enduring training material, as well as webinars with exam-related presentations and the opportunity for questions and answers. One of the instruments developed for exam preparation was a “practice exam,” which was more precisely a pre-exam technical check to ensure that examinees could sign on correctly to the new software and recognize the various exam screens. The “practice exam” was required of all examinees. Post-exam surveys raised concerns that while this pre-exam process ensured an understanding of exam access, it did not enable examinees to feel comfortable with exam navigation.

Click HERE to read more.



RO IC Advisory Committee Member Appreciates Opportunity to Provide Resident Perspective

Shauna Campbell, DO
Shauna Campbell, DO

By Rodney Campbell, ABR Communications Manager


When approached by the Association of Residents in Radiation Oncology (ARRO) to serve as a representative on the ABR Radiation Oncology Initial Certification Advisory Committee, Shauna Campbell, DO, didn’t hesitate to accept.

“I was very grateful for the opportunity,” she said. “While the ABR is an independent organization, it is useful to have this advisory committee as a forum where stakeholder representatives can participate in discussions about board certification in radiation oncology.”

Dr. Campbell, a radiation oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic who specializes in the treatment of musculoskeletal and head and neck malignancies, joined the advisory committee in 2019. At the time, she was chief resident at the Cleveland Clinic.

Click HERE to read more.


Remote Exam Advice from Several Who Succeeded 

By Rodney Campbell, ABR Communications Manager


The ABR offers resources to help candidates prepare for a positive exam-day experience. Here are a few pointers for candidates who have upcoming computer-based or oral exams.

Computer-based exams

Candidates should complete the technical check at a time that is convenient for them. The check is performed by launching the practice exam through myABR on the cognitive expertise page.

The technical check is used to ensure that the candidate’s microphone, webcam, internet connection, and computer hardware and software are optimized for the exam. Candidates may need to download an updated version of Google Chrome or the Proctorio® extension for Google Chrome to complete the technical check.

Click HERE to read more.



Communications Team Employs Multipronged Approach to Inform ABR Stakeholders


David Laszakovits, MBA, Director of Communications; Rodney Campbell, Communications Manager; Heather Hopkins, Communications Coordinator; and David Short, User Experience and Graphic Designer

Communication is an extremely important component of the ABR mission – “To certify that our diplomates demonstrate the requisite knowledge, skill, and understanding of their disciplines to the benefit of patients” – and The Beam is just one of many ways the ABR passes along important information about the rapidly changing landscape of board certification to our diplomates and candidates. Other components include our website, a weekly blog, active presence on multiple social media platforms, advisory committees, and attendance at society meetings.

The Beam editorial staff is led by ABR Governor J. Anthony Seibert, PhD, who, in his role as editor, helps decide on topics to be covered and writes the “From the Editor” column for each edition. Through the newsletter, he works to share information that is meaningful, important, timely, and useful to candidates in the Initial Certification process and to diplomates enrolled in Continuing Certification (MOC).

Click HERE to read more.



More Than 90% of OLA Participants Are Meeting Annual Requirements


As the end of the year approaches, there are a few things to keep in mind for Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) participants. First, make sure you have completed your question requirements for 2021. For most diplomates, this will be 52 questions per certificate. As of mid-November, 91.25% of participants are meeting their annual OLA requirements. If you are among those who need to catch up, you have several opportunities remaining before the end of the month.

Second, if you met your requirements months ago and have been taking a break, don’t forget to start again in the new year. Even if you have reached 200 total questions answered, you need to continue to meet your annual question requirements every year. Your annual performance evaluation on January 1 will include your most recently answered 200 scorable questions.

For diagnostic radiology and interventional radiology diplomates, please see the article in your respective section in this issue for information about changes to the practice profile rules that will allow you more flexibility in selecting your clinical practice areas beginning January 1, 2022.

If you have questions about OLA, please contact a certification services manager at or (520) 790-2900.

5 Million Questions Answered

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October 28 Blog

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October 26 Blog

Lifetime Certificate Holder Uses Continuing Certification to Stay on Top of His Game

October 19 Blog

When Work is Rolling, This Resident Makes Time to Rock

October 13 Blog

When Breast Cancer Gets Personal

October 5 Blog

RO IC Advisory Committee Member: Stakeholder Feedback Helps Build Trust





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