Improving Health Through Medical Physics


J. Anthony Seibert, PhD, Member, ABR Board of Governors
Jerry Allison, PhD, Kalpana M. Kanal, PhD, and Matthew B. Podgorsak, PhD, ABR Trustees, and G. Donald Frey

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 43 No. 4 — July | August 2018
The ABR depends upon volunteers to function. ABR trustees, governors, committee members, and oral examiners are all volunteers who serve without pay. One of the key functions of ABR medical physics volunteers is to write the physics questions for all ABR exams. This includes not only the medical physics certification questions, but also physics questions for diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology/diagnostic radiology, and radiation oncology certification exams. For question writing purposes, volunteers are organized into committees according to their expertise. In this article, we will focus on the Therapeutic Medical Physics (TMP) Oral Exam Committee.

The Therapeutic Medical Physics Oral Exam Committee

The TMP Oral Exam Committee has six members: Frank Ascoli, MS; John Bayouth, PhD; Katja Langen, PhD; Moyed Miften, PhD; and Richard Popple, PhD. Matthew Podgorsak, PhD, chairs the committee and serves as the ABR Physics Trustee for TMP; Elena Luevano is the ABR staff member currently assigned to support the TMP Committee. This committee's charge has five main components:

  • Generating oral questions, answers, and references
  • Assembling each year's Oral Exam
  • Updating the blueprint for the exam by including new material that has entered widespread use and removing older material that is no longer relevant
  • Reviewing questions currently in the pool for accuracy and relevance, and
  • Analyzing exam question statistics after each year's Oral Exam to ensure that all questions are performing well.

Exam Question Development

The members of the committee develop questions throughout the year and formally submit them in the spring. Each question has four parts:

  • The main question and images that are presented to the candidates
  • A discussion of answer elements that candidates would be expected to know
  • Possible topics for follow-up, and
  • References.

All questions are reviewed by the TMP Committee during several online sessions, usually held in April and May. After the committee approves a new question, it is sent to the ABR Office for review by a member of the editorial staff, who checks the question for ABR psychometric standards, general clarity, and correct grammar. An imaging editor subsequently reviews the images associate with the question for clarity, adds appropriate annotation, and checks for inadvertent HIPAA violations. The question then goes into a pool of available questions.

Assembling the Exam

The TMP Committee holds a two-day retreat in late August during which all questions for the next year's Oral Exam are selected and reviewed one last time. Each medical physics specialty has five categories that define the scope of material on its respective Oral Exam. Every candidate is asked five questions in each category, for a total of 25 questions per candidate. There are two exam administrations per day, into which all candidates are grouped; therefore, with a typical four-day exam timeframe, 200 questions are asked each year. Because the same question cannot be used in successive years, a robust pool of questions is needed.

The ABR thanks the volunteers who serve on the Therapeutic Medical Physics Oral Exam Committee for making it possible to deliver a high-quality exam every year.

ABR One-Year Post-Completion CAMPEP Policy

In 2012 the ABR announced a temporary policy stating that a candidate would be considered as having completed a CAMPEP-accredited program if the program is accredited within one year of the candidate's graduation from the program. The ABR will rescind this temporary policy as of February 1, 2020. After that date, the ABR will require candidates for Part 1 to first graduate from a CAMPEP-accredited academic program, diagnostic medical physics (DMP) program, certificate program, or residency that was CAMPEP-accredited prior to the date of matriculation.

To become board eligible, the candidate must complete a CAMPEP-residency program that was accredited for the entire length of the candidate's residency. Note that this does not pertain to individuals in the 36-month clinical experience pathway, which will close on February 1, 2023.

Performance Metrics for Residents on the ABR Exams

Over the last few years the ABR has tracked the behavior of candidates from CAMPEP accredited residencies. During that time, we have noted:

  • The CARS performance on Part1 was similar to those who only had training in a CAMPEP accredited graduate program.
  • The CARS performance was better than other candidates.
  • On the Part 3 (Oral) the CARS are much better than other candidates and the gap is increasing.
  • CARS candidates now have a passing rate almost twice that of other candidates.
  • The CARS passing rate is approaching that of Radiation Oncology residents.

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