Suresh Nair, MD is the Physician-in-Chief of the Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute and leads the health network’s academic programs. He is also the Medical Director of the Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Alliance and has practiced oncology in the community setting for 30 years. He is chair of ABIM’s Medical Oncology Board.
I maintain certification in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology, but let my Hematology certification lapse. I’ve regretted that for a while, but have not been able to find the time to sit down and study for a few months for the long test. Most oncologists – even if they’re not doing hematology as their main area – get involved in it in some way, either in inpatient service or on the weekends.
The new Longitudinal Knowledge Assessment (LKATM) opened a pathway that will allow me to rebuild my knowledge about hematology over time. I has been really great, as the platform is intuitive, and I didn’t have to do all the questions at one time. I like that it also provides instant feedback if I got a question right or wrong, along with references, and that helps me know where I need improvement. Time has a way of making us think we’re more of an expert than we are — we think we know more than we actually do — so having these resources is very helpful and allows me to put what I learn into practice immediately.
I feel like when physicians enroll in the LKA it’s helping them keep up with science that is evolving rapidly. The next day they might see a patient who has something they learned about due to a recent LKA question. It provides them with a new way of looking at a situation. I like that after the 5th quarter and then quarterly I will receive interim score reports that let me know how I’m doing and help me to stay on track.
I do think physicians who have a lifetime certification need a reminder that things change and we sometimes need to unlearn what we had learned, and learn new things. And we need to realize that we don’t always know as much as we think – the LKA helps us to stay on track and does it in a way that is flexible and easy. There really isn’t any downside to trying the LKA – it’s a good way to refresh your knowledge and make sure you can provide the best patient care.
I would say to anyone thinking about trying the LKA, don’t worry if you don’t do that well on the first set of questions. Go through them, see where you have some weak points, read up on them and then do another set of questions. I expect to improve as I go on. I started with about 10 questions in the first sitting and I finished them all in three sittings. I read up on some of the areas I had trouble with on the first set of questions and I’m reading up on some things now for the next set.
I think this type of assessment works well for busy physicians who are often interrupted. I sat down in the evening with a cup of tea, looked at the long list of emails waiting for me and did a few questions then before leaving for home. I think each physician will find what works for them. For me it’s best to take some questions in the afternoon or late evenings.
I consider certification a positive reflection on an institution, a positive stamp that shows physicians are keeping up and I am going to encourage all my colleagues to do the LKA. I like that it helps us all to implement what we’ve learned immediately and to improve patient care.