Oral boards stories

By C. Douglas Phillips, MD, FACR, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York–Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY
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Applied Radiology Editorial Advisory Board.

I asked for oral board stories a few months back, and wow, did you all respond. My inbox was flooded with them. And, after laughing for quite some time, wiping a few tears away (because I was heartened by the stories, and also because I do that sometimes when I laugh really hard), I picked a few of them. I think there are more than enough for 2 of these columns. I reserve the right to parade the others out at a later date. Minimal name contributions here, to maintain some semblance of respect to the individual contributors.

The place sticks in everyone’s mind. Taking the exam in an examiner’s ROOM. Hmm, close proximity to the bathroom can be problematic. Martin’s story—the examiner (not examinee) with the weak bladder. Examining the films and discussing a finding to the tinkling sound in the next room, and hearing “I am listening!”

The candidates are petrified. This one from an examiner, Leonard. A candidate had done enough to pass—the mystical 70—but didn’t think so himself. On departing, the candidate’s comment: “I want to thank you for encouraging my career in dermatology!”

The examiners. Imagine this story in today’s context. Edward had a CV examiner who SMOKED CIGARETTES THE ENTIRE EXAM.“ I think there’s pretty bad atherosclerotic disease in this popliteal, but I’m having trouble seeing it through this cloud!” Examiners are most concerned about their departure flight. Hey, remember, they’ve been there for a few days, not a few hours. Many wrote about the frantic packing during the last session. I personally went through that—something a little unsettling about underwear flying through the air headed for that suitcase at your back.

One of my favorites, from Juan. How many remember the SNL skit with Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford, stating during a question on economics at a faux debate, “I was told there would be no math?” The examiner asked a friend, in the perfect setup, to comment on the HU’s of an adrenal mass; all the numbers floating across the films. His response, naturally, “I was told there would be no math?” Ha! Winner! Fortunately, the examiner knew the reference.

And finally, from Jane. Bad examiner. No comments, using an ancient mike and amplifier set up as a hearing aid. TURNED IT OFF after a few cases. Hmmm, can you not hear me now, or do you not care what I’m saying? Flustered, obviously, but on to the next room about to break down. Fortunately, a nice examiner recognized the distress, threw some softballs, and got her back on track. As she stated, more eloquently than I could muster, “The Brave New Boards certainly won’t have the audacity of the first examiner, but will lack the compassion of the second one.” She passed.


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Oral boards stories.  Appl Radiol. 

September 30, 2011

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