Purpose: Our purpose was to evaluate the effect of the current structure and schedule of the American Board of Radiology (ABR) radiation oncology initial certification (RO-IC) examinations, with a primary focus on implications for family planning and early professional barriers among female radiation oncologists. Methods and Materials: A survey was conducted of crowdsourced ABR candidates and diplomates for radiation oncology between June and July of 2020. The primary study cohort was early career female radiation oncologists of the 2016 through 2021 graduating classes. Results: The survey response rate of early career female radiation oncologists was 37% (126 of an estimated 337). Among this cohort, 58% (73 of 126) reported they delayed or are currently delaying/timing pregnancy or adoption to accommodate the annual schedule of the 4 qualifying and certifying examinations required to achieve board certification in radiation oncology. One in every 3 respondents who had attempted to become pregnant reported experiencing infertility (25 of 79, 32%). Women who reported intentionally delaying pregnancy to accommodate the ABR RO-IC examination schedule were significantly more likely to experience infertility (46% vs 18%, P = .008). Seven women (6%) reported at least a 1-year delay in sitting for a RO-IC examination due to an unavoidable scheduling conflict related to childbirth and/or the peripartum period. A majority reported that full board certification had a significant effect on achieving academic promotion or professional partnership (52%), annual compensation (54%), and nonclinical professional commitments (58%) — these rates mirror those of surveyed early career male counterparts (n = 101). Conclusions: The current structure and scheduling of the ABR RO-IC examinations imposes noteworthy hurdles for many female radiation oncologists when entering the workforce. The recent transition to virtual examination platforms creates an important opportunity to increase flexibility in the structure and scheduling of the board examination process to improve equitable board certification practices.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging