Published August 2, 2022
Robert M. Barr, MD, FACR
Dr. Barr is a private practice neuroradiologist with Mecklenburg Radiology Associates PA in Charlotte, North Carolina, and incoming President of the American Board of Radiology.
The five years since I joined the Board of Governors has been a period of remarkable change as the American Board of Radiology (ABR) has evolved in response to new requirements and improved stakeholder engagement. The biggest change was the introduction of Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) in 2019 to supplant the previous model of recurring high-stakes exams as part of Continuing Certification. The platform has both formative and summative functions and, as a result, satisfies the parts of our social contract as medical professionals that relate to lifelong learning and self-assessment. It positions the ABR as one of the leaders in adopting the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Standards for Continuing Certification released last November.
In early 2020, recognizing the challenges resulting from the pandemic, we embarked on an aggressive development plan to deliver our Initial Certification exams in a virtual environment. Our early experience with OLA was crucial in guiding the design and implementation of remote exams. In 2021, we successfully administered over 5,000 exams (including both qualifying and certification exams) across all four disciplines (diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, medical physics, and radiation oncology) and anticipate this will remain an enduring model for Initial Certification.
In addition to the introduction of remote exams and accelerated exam administration, 2021 saw the implementation of a new residency leave policy designed to balance the need for standardization with flexibility to address life events that individuals face during training. We were fortunate to benefit from the vigorous engagement of numerous stakeholders during the development of this policy, including dozens of conversations with trainees and program faculty. Beginning with the 2021–2022 academic year, residents with total time away from residency averaging less than eight weeks (40 workdays) per academic year are eligible for Initial Certification without an extension of training.
Although the programs mentioned above are the most visible to our candidates and diplomates, the behind-the-scenes efforts of our volunteers have been critical in supporting the continuous improvement of our exam content and delivery. We now offer exam candidates increased flexibility in many elements of the qualifying exams, as well as additional dates for the oral exams in medical physics, radiation oncology, and interventional radiology. Several months ago, we embarked on a comprehensive evaluation of the certification exams for diagnostic radiology; as of this writing, external discussions have provided a broad range of perspectives and extremely useful suggestions for potential modifications.
Our executive team and staff have made significant strides in streamlining our administrative processes and improving efficiency, with the goal of mitigating costs. We have reduced redundancy and non-core initiatives and terminated our lease for the Chicago testing center as part of our transition to remote exams. We’ve reduced the cost of some of our products, particularly subspecialty certification exams, and will continue to focus on fee reduction when possible. We are fortunate to maintain healthy capital reserves, which have helped offset investments in technology and software development during the past few years of transition. We continue to maintain our recognition for financial transparency with Platinum Status (per Candid®, formerly GuideStar®).
As I assume the role of ABR president, I look forward to working with our volunteers, staff, and stakeholders to support the ABR’s mission to provide a credential that indicates a high level of professional achievement and commitment to clinical excellence. The ABR Board of Governors, volunteers, and staff remain committed to improving the relevance and value of our exams and programs while avoiding increased costs and unnecessary complication for our candidates and diplomates.
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