Serving as a public (non-physician) director of the American Board of Medical Specialties has brought me into contact with physicians involved in physician education, training, and certification. Gerry Jordan, MD, executive secretary of the American Board of Urology, is one of my ABMS colleagues. As a result of our relationship, I was invited to observe the recent ABU Examination Committee meeting, where questions for the Qualifying Examination are written and evaluated. At the meeting, I had an opportunity to see firsthand how the examination is developed, how it is administered, and the role it plays in the overall certification process for urologists.
I joined 25 physicians—four assigned to each of four task forces, along with consultants who facilitated the working sessions, committee leadership, and members of the AUA Core Curriculum Committee—supported by ABU and AUA staff. As I came to appreciate during the meeting, developing the certification examinations is a team sport, and an impressive team with a strong bench had been assembled. Tony Caldamone, MD, chaired the committee, successfully keeping the meeting focused and on schedule.
The Qualifying Examination is the first step in board certification for urologists. (Step two, the Certifying Examination, is the subject of Dr. Henry Rosevear’s blog post “Taking the boards: Not a bad rite of passage after all.”) The Qualifying Examination consists of 300 multiple-choice questions, 200 of which are used to make the certification decision and 100 that are being field tested.
Friday evening was devoted to introductions, with orientation on Saturday morning, and then on to the task at hand. There were working sessions Saturday afternoon, all day Sunday and Monday, and Tuesday morning. Over these 4 days, I witnessed dedicated professionals hard at work on behalf of their colleagues, the medical profession, and the public.
Each of the four task forces addressed a different area of urology:
- physiology, immunology, molecular biology, hypertension, transplantation
- sexual dysfunction, voiding dysfunction
- infections, inflammatory diseases, endocrinopathy, calculus disease, trauma, obstructive uropathy, fertility
- neoplasms, urinary diversion, fistulae
- pediatric urology, anatomy, fluid and electrolyte disorders.
Task force members are all volunteers appointed to a 2-year term with the potential for a second term. They are responsible for drafting questions in advance of the meeting. Each question must be accompanied by a discussion of the concept being tested and supported by citations from “Campbell-Walsh Urology” and other sources, including peer-reviewed publications and AUA guidelines.