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American Board of Radiology clamps down on rampant cheating among doctors seeking board certification

Wednesday, February 01, 2012 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: radiology, cheating, board certification

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(NaturalNews) Memorizing board certification test questions and relaying them to other doctors soon to take the test themselves has become common practice among radiology doctors seeking to become board certified. But the American Board of Radiology (ABR), as well as a number of educational institutions, are cracking down on this practice, known as "recalls," after escalating concerns about how this form of cheating could ruin the integrity of the board certification process.

CNN reports that Dr. Matthew Webb, an Army captain who was trained at the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium (SAUSHEC), recently filed a complaint with ABR about the widespread use of recalls. Dr. Webb told the group that cheating had become so commonplace that even the program director of the radiology department where Dr. Webb studied had basically ordered him to use recalls in order to pass the test.

"We're outraged by this, and we took this case to our professionalism committee," said Dr. Gary Becker, executive director of ABR and overseer of the exam certification process, to CNN in response to Dr. Webb's complaint. While ABR's response has included cracking down on the use of recalls and reformatting the exam process beginning next year, Dr. Becker claims the use of recalls is not a health threat to patients since radiologists still must go through extensive training, and pass the rigorous test itself, in order to become certified.

Dr. Webb, on the other hand, says using recalls is the "ultimate betrayal of trust to patients," and the "most egregious and flagrant violation in academia." He told reporters that students in any other phase of schooling -- elementary school, high school, undergraduate studies, and graduate studies -- would not be allowed to get away with cheating, so why should radiologists?

Many other practicing radiologists, on the other hand, liken recalls to simple study guides that aid in the learning process. Since 50 percent of board certification exam questions change from year to year, and the fact that doctors must still successfully pass an unrehearsed oral exam, using recalls is just a practical way to study intense material, they say.

"If they had a test where you could study relevant radiology knowledge and they tested on it, that would be fine," said Dr. Joseph Deiber, a radiologist, to CNN. Dr. Dieber believes recalls are a "gray area," and says many of the questions on the board certification exam are "irrelevant to the modern practice of radiology," which is why recalls are widely used as study guides.

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