News from the ABR

The Beam October 2020

October 2020 | Volume 13, Issue 5

From the Editor

by J. Anthony Seibert, PhD, ABR Governor


We are continually striving to make The Beam more relevant and beneficial for you. Starting with this issue, the content you receive via email will be more focused on your discipline. We hope you enjoy this improvement. For your convenience, all articles will be included in the online version.

As the pandemic continues, the ABR is investing in a major effort to develop remote exam software under a very tight timeline, with delivery of exams beginning in 2021. There are significant challenges to making the exams fair, safe, and secure for all candidates. ABR Executive Director Brent Wagner discusses the complexity of this undertaking in terms of practicality, candidate experience, and a balance of security and validity so the process is credible and maintains the value of certification.

From the Board of Governors, John Kaufman, the new secretary-treasurer, talks about the value of volunteering for the ABR, given the rapidly changing landscape of professional certification and huge societal and population health challenges. Volunteers contribute greatly to fulfilling the mission of the ABR and make a positive difference for all diplomates and the public we serve.

Click HERE to read more.


Secure Exams Benefit the Candidates Who Take Them

by Brent Wagner, MD, MBA, ABR Executive Director


Over the past few months, the ABR has initiated a complex set of projects to provide a series of modified exams for 2021. As we have announced, we will not require travel to our exam centers or commercial test centers beginning next year. Although the subject matter and scoring model of our exams will be essentially unchanged, remote exam delivery seeks to remove the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the potential impact of the pandemic on this portion of the certification process. 

The path to board certification includes satisfactory completion in two major areas: a residency and a series of standardized exams. The combination of these two elements and the significant accomplishment they represent are an important part of the social contract with our patients, their families, and the communities that medical professionals are privileged to serve. 

Click HERE to read more.


New Secretary-Treasurer Knows Value of Volunteering

by John Kaufman, MD, MS, ABR Secretary-Treasurer


When I was asked to write a short article about serving as the new secretary-treasurer for the ABR Board of Governors, my initial response was, “What is there to say? This is a volunteer role for the ABR and I’m happy to do it.” But then I thought a little more about it, and it occurred to me that there is an underlying principle that is worth briefly articulating.

Medical specialties are uniquely entrusted to self-regulate so their members can focus on serving the public interest. As physicians/physicists, volunteering for our professional organizations is one of the most important ways we can acknowledge society’s trust in us. No matter the level of your involvement or how much time you put in, volunteering is critical to your field.

Click HERE to read more.


Item Writing for ABR Exams is Performed with Great Care

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


Although the ABR is moving to remote exams, and the platforms on which the exams are given will be different, what won’t change is the care that goes into creating each question.

ABR exam questions (“items”) are written by numerous committees comprising more than 600 subject matter experts who practice in the many subspecialties of radiology. These professionals donate their time and expertise to develop exam content.

The life cycle of an exam item begins when a subject matter expert prepares a case with associated assets and references and submits it through our proprietary exam development software. ABR staff members (exam developers) facilitate all volunteer committee activities, including the submission of questions and images, editorial review of material for clarity and accuracy, and preparation of multimedia assets to meet ABR needs.

Click HERE to read more.


Candidate Patience Appreciated as We Pivot to Remote Exams

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


For the past six months, our world has been turned upside down by COVID-19, and it is becoming clear that our lives will be disrupted for many more months. We all hope for a successful vaccine and a corresponding regression of the pandemic, but that is unlikely before early to mid-2021 at the earliest.

Everyone has had to adapt on the fly, both at home and at work. For imagers, the workplace has been radically modified to allow safe practice, with our reading stations dispersed and remote reading dominating imaging practices. Interventional radiology has faced just as much disruption to normal practice, with cancellation of elective cases, incorporation of testing into pre-procedure evaluation, adjustment to enhanced personal protective equipment mandates, and delays to allow for new protocols for cleaning procedure rooms. For all of us, in-person meetings and conferences were abruptly abandoned, and we suddenly were in the world of Zoom and Webex. In-person CME meetings may not be resumed into well into 2021 or later. Everything is different.


Click HERE to read more.


Volunteer’s Medical Physics Career Began as ‘Trial by Fire’


In this issue of The Beam, we focus our spotlight on ABR Trustee Robert A. Pooley, PhD, FAAPM, a medical physicist at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

Dr. Pooley (Bob) found his way to medical physics, as many have found their careers, through an unpredictable sequence of events. “I was born and grew up in Florida, but my father grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. My grandfather was a professor in the English department in Madison for 30 years, and my father and uncle got various degrees there. I lived in Gainesville (home of the University of Florida) through high school, and my mother, sisters, and brother went to Florida State University in Tallahassee. I had enough of Florida schools and wanted to carry on the tradition in Madison, so I went there for undergrad,” Bob said.

Bob enjoyed math and physics and graduated with a BS in physics from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1988. He was ready to continue school but was not sure in which field. After graduation, Bob was introduced to medical physics during a summer job at Lunar Radiation in Madison assembling bone densitometers and was able to enter the medical physics graduate program in Madison that year.

Click HERE to read more.


OLA: Radiation Oncology Dips a Toe in the Water and Likes the Temperature

by Paul E. Wallner, DO, FASTRO, Associate Executive Director for Radiation Oncology, and Andrea K. Ng, MD, MPH, ABR Trustee


In 1994, after awarding the final non-time-limited (aka lifetime) certificates in radiation oncology (RO), the ABR enrolled all new RO diplomates in its Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program. It was anticipated that this novel educational assessment program would evolve over time, and such was the case. Although the basic elements of the program remain unchanged, each of its four essential parts has been updated to better synchronize with diplomates’ practice patterns and to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort or documentation. Documentation changes for Part 1 (Professionalism and Professional Standing) and participation options for Part 2 (Lifelong Learning and Self-Assessment) were implemented early in the programs. Alternative means to complete Part 4 (Improvement in Medical Practice) were also adopted.1,2


Click HERE to read more.


Initial Certification Advisory Committee Engages Stakeholders in Medical Physics

by Matthew B. Podgorsak, PhD, ABR Trustee


Matthew B. Podgorsak, PhDSeveral years ago, the ABR established an Initial Certification Advisory Committee (IC-AC) in medical physics to enhance communication with its stakeholders: exam candidates and leaders of graduate programs, residency programs, and supporting societies. This committee has enabled discussion and two-way feedback regarding the processes, decisions, timing, and delivery of ABR certification exams and provided a valuable mechanism for improving the medical physicist certification experience.

Committee membership includes medical physics graduate students and residents from across the nation, a graduate program director (Wayne Newhauser), a residency program director (Bruce Libby), and AAPM representatives Jay Burmeister of the Education and Training of Medical Physicists Committee, David W. Jordan of the Professional Council, and Joann Prisciandaro of the Education Council. The ABR is represented by medical physics trustees Matt Podgorsak (committee chair), Kalpana Kanal, and Robert Pooley; Governor J. Anthony Seibert; and Associate Executive Director for Medical Physics Geoffrey Ibbott (committee secretary).

Click HERE to read more.


RO Volunteers Successfully Dealing with Remote Duties

by Rodney Campbell, ABR Communications Manager


Among the important ABR activities impacted this year by the COVID-19 pandemic are the in-person volunteer meetings that normally take place in Chicago and Tucson. Radiation oncology volunteers, like their counterparts in the other three specialties, have been meeting remotely via Microsoft Teams since March.

The role these professionals play in developing questions and compiling exams is critical. They are the ones who make initial certification exams and Online Longitudinal Assessment fair and relevant. Continuing those duties remotely has been an adjustment.

Click HERE to read more.


OLA Educational Opportunities Don’t Have to End After 52 Questions

by Cecilia M. Jude, MD


Cecilia Jude, MDI graduated and become board certified in diagnostic radiology in 2002, the first year the ABR began issuing time-limited certificates. I had missed the timeline for having a lifetime certificate and had to take the maintenance of certification (MOC) exam every 10 years. I already had a time-limited certificate in nuclear medicine, which I completed before diagnostic radiology. Consequently, I had to recertify in two specialties for my entire professional life. This meant two exams at spaced intervals, with the accompanying disquiet that we all feel when good exam results are not only an official requisite, but also an internal validation of how competent we are as physicians.

I then completed a fellowship in thoracic radiology and started my practice in thoracic imaging at the West Los Angeles VA Hospital. A few years later, I moved to one of the Los Angeles County hospitals and began interpreting thoracic, body imaging, and nuclear medicine studies.

Click HERE to read more.


Dr. Canon Lauded for Her Leadership in Radiology


ABR Governor Cheri L. Canon, MD, professor and chair of UAB Radiology, recently received a Women of Impact award from Yellowhammer News, an Alabama website, which cited her work with the ABR, her previous service as vice chair of the American College of Radiology (ACR), and her current role as president of the Society of Chairs in Academic Radiology Departments (SCARD).

Dr. Canon is co-creator of the nationwide Leading, Empowering and Disrupting (LEAD) Women’s Leadership Program, a collaboration between SCARD and GE Healthcare to specifically cultivate more women chairs in radiology. She also just finished her second term as president of Birmingham’s Momentum, a network of more than 500 women alumnae leaders in Birmingham, and frequently writes about the value of mentorship, especially for women.

Remote Exam Updates


Want to keep up with our progress on developing remote exam platforms? Please bookmark this page and follow us on Twitter for more information as we move toward a new way of delivering initial certification exams in 2021.

Our certification services managers are available to answer any questions related to initial certification or maintenance of certification at or (520) 790-2900.

Check Out Our YouTube Page for Informational Videos


Want to learn more about the ABR? Please take some time to look at our YouTube page.

We have recently posted several informative videos featuring Brent Wagner, MD, our new executive director. The segments include short messages about our purpose, the importance of board certification, and Online Longitudinal Assessment.

Please subscribe if you want to receive notice every time a video is posted on our YouTube page. Upcoming weeks will feature videos about why we attend annual meetings for associations and societies and ways to effect change through volunteering.

September 15 Blog

Participants Aren’t Thrown a Curve by OLA

September 8 Blog

For Most, OLA Progress Requirement Involves Answering 52 Questions

September 1 Blog

Information About Remote Exams is Just a Click Away

August 25 Blog

Mentors Help Develop Future Physician Leaders

August 18 Blog

Completing OLA Progress Requirements Lowers SA-CME Obligations

August 11 Blog

Q&A with Executive Director Brent Wagner












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