When someone is looking for a physician, regardless of the type of specialty, they may be overwhelmed with their options. One of the credentials people might notice is that some doctors are “board certified.” Many times, patients gloss over this certification, assuming that all doctors are board certified; however, this is not the case.
In order for someone to call themselves a physician, they need to have attended medical school and have earned either a medical degree or a doctorate of osteopathic medicine. This is either an MD or a DO, respectively. However, in order for someone to be board-certified, they need to have completed residency in a subspecialty of medicine and have passed a challenging set of exams which are organized by the national board for their specific subspecialty in order to demonstrate a high level of technical and clinical competency.
In radiation oncology, the board examination process is spread out over 2 years. It comprises 3 separate written exams and one final oral examination. This is after completing a 1-year internship and 4 years of residency. The exams are developed by the American Board of Radiology (ABR) and include:
- Medical Physics for Radiation Oncology
- Radiation and Cancer Biology
- Clinical Radiation Oncology written exam
- Clinical Radiation Oncology oral exam
A board-certified radiation oncologist has successfully passed these exams and has demonstrated mastery of all aspects of the field. A board-eligible radiation oncologist has completed residency and has passed most of the exams, but is still waiting to take the oral examination. This designation is common for physicians in their first year of practice. But why does this board certification matter?