Doctors Cheating on Board Exams—Why It Matters to YOU!

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice

I just came across a disturbing article posted online at CNN.  They lead an investigation into board certification exams for radiology and the possibility of candidates cheating on the test.  Once this was disclosed to the American Board of Radiology (“ABR”)—the organization who oversees the exam and certifies passing radiologists—considered what candidates are doing cheating and now want to put a stop to it.
           
What the candidates are doing is called “recalling.”  What happens is that candidates write down the questions they can remember after taking the board certification test.  These questions get complied into a quite extensive bank, and hopefully candidates in turn will study and blatantly memorize these banks of questions to pass the board certification test.  Essentially, they are just studying and memorizing the test and possible questions as opposed to memorizing all of the potential material that could be on the test.  The banks span over fifteen years of questions and are presented in easy-to-digest formats, such as PowerPoints or PDFs.  Here is a sample: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2012/images/01/09/saushec.pdf.
           
The ABR acknowledged that this has been happening for quite some time, and—again—considers this cheating and directly against the exam policy.  In fact, the candidates must sign an agreement not to share test material.  However, this is completely violated by the candidates in making these “recall” banks.  This is important because about half of the questions on the radiology test are actually the same exact ones each year!
           
So what is the big deal?  Well—the students are memorizing the test and not the actual material.  Granted, they are still learning the material.  However, they are more so focusing on these given questions.  The president-elect of ABR, Dr. James Borgstede, stated that “[o]ur real mission is to the public . . . [o]ur real mission is to say that your certified radiologist has demonstrated, acquired and maintained the requisite skills and knowledge to practice with skill and safety on the public.”  Dr. Matthew Webb, a military radiologist who complained specifically to the ABR about recalled which generated an investigation by the ABR, said that “[c]heating is the ultimate betrayal of trust to patients, and it’s also the most egregious and flagrant violation in academia . . . . I got to where I was based on my own personal achievements, learning and educating myself.  To have to take an exam against others who were cheating is . . . unfathomable.” 
           
This scares me because radiologists are sued with some frequency—perhaps not one of the highest, but they are still commonly sued.  I would bet that if radiologists were without these “recall” banks of questions, they would have a significantly lower rate of medical malpractice.  Either way, I really hate investigations like this because it really makes me questions the trustworthiness of some physicians.  It will make me question any and all radiologists, which gives a bad name for the ones that do the right thing and study for the board certification test properly.  I hope that these “recall” banks are vehemently attacked by the ABR and taken down, and violations of such anti-cheating policy are prosecuted.
           
But what do you think?  I would love to hear from you!  I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] .  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.
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