Monday, December 15, 2008


"You're a slacker, McFly!" is exactly what I hear in my head when I look at the blank screen of a new blog post template. Yes, I have been a slacker (sorry, KC, gentle nudge acknowledged!) I do have a good excuse, though. I was only studying for one of the scariest exams of my life to date (and that's a pretty big deal for a physician!) I recently took my oral board examination for board certification. It was like no other test that I ever had. I would not care to experience it again, though I fear I may. There is something really humbling in studying like a college student cramming for a final exam when you are in your mid-30s. I am not going to lie, I felt a little bitter and resentful about it. I mean, I do this work every day. I feel fairly competent, and, if I don't have all the answers, I do know where to look for them. I also have colleagues to which I can refer, so I really resent that I am not deemed a "good enough" physician until I go through the hazing ritual.

Truly, as I looked around the room the day of the exam, I felt as if I were in the inner sanctum of a (not so) secret society. The testing center was the house of the brotherhood. The examiners were the brothers/sisters, and I was the lowly pledge, so desperate to be on the other side of that imaginary line between junior fellow and fellow. It was all rather unsettling. I have been beating myself up since the test has concluded, and I'll have to wait a little longer until I discover whether I am "in" or whether I am "out." My family has been grounding me since my return home. To them, I *am* their inner circle, and, whether or not the brotherhood deems me worthy, I know that I can count on their radiant smiles and open arms to welcome me into our own little cozy inner sanctum. It puts everything in perspective, of which I am in great need. So, no more slacking, at home, work, or the blogosphere. The test is over, and life moves on.


  1. My god, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. Thanks for putting it into words! I have to beg the brotherhood again when I make a second attempt at the hazing ritual. So humiliating. And yet my kids could care less, as long as I'm still here with them, doing our thing. What a balance!

    One day at a time.

    Best of luck to you.

  2. Congratulations! My partner's wife was probably there with you. She had heard all kinds of scary stories like how the examiners weren't supposed to smile or acknowledge correct answers. I'm getting set to be "rehazed" in 2010 - and not looking forward to it - our board keeps adding things to maintain certification. We're glad to have you as part of the "mutha hood"! MWAS

  3. Congratulations Dr. Whoo on getting through the experience. I feel your pain.

    Psychiatry has oral boards as well. We interview a patient with two doctors watching to whom we then present and get grilled up to and beyond the edges of our knowledge base.

    I found the anxiety profound. To bring this into mothers in medicine, I took my written boards in my third trimester with my second child during fellowship.

    I took the oral boards (taken once you have passed the) written ones with a 10 week old nursing infant. I carried around my breast pump to pump and dump while I was in a different city wanting to quit at every moment.

    Unfortunately I developed a raging mastisits in the hotel room the night before. Fortunately, my best pal form med school lived in the different city and came to me with warm soup and antibiotics.

    My biggest incentive to get through the exam? To never have to repeat the experience AGAIN.

    What happened during those oral boards should be the subject of a blog post. Yeah, in my copious free time.

  4. Oral board exams just suck. I had to retake mine (surgery) and when I went to retake it, the anxiety there was ten-fold. Luckily I passed. I think that if they don't like the way you look or something, they fail you. I didn't feel exceptionally smarter the second time or anything.

    I just finished my recertification exam (which is computerized but still takes over a month to get the results, go figure). Ugh.

    Good luck.

  5. This was a thought-provoking post for me. I took my oral boards more than a year ago, and I never really thought about it being like a secret society. Now that I think about it, that does fit.

    Clearly, there is a need to ensure that physicians are competent, safe practitioners. I see how the boards process can accomplish that. However, I feel the process has been used by the powers that be as a cash cow.

    In neurosurgery, the oral boards are given in only one city. The costs include registration fees, airfare to the host city, hotel and food for the better part of a week, and fees to take the oral boards class given just prior to the exam (in the same city). We're talking thousands of dollars plus opportunity costs of being away from your practice.

    As for the boards course, things are structured in such a way as to make it difficult to pass the exam if you didn't take the course.

    That's just oral boards, not including fees we paid to take written boards, all those national board exams (Parts I-III), and recertification exams.

    It's part of the cost of doing business, I guess, but it seems to have grown from a molehill into a mountain.

  6. I'm sure you did fine. Hang in there.

  7. I took my ob.gyn oral exam 3 years ago and still get sick at the thought. The city of Dallas will never have a warm place in my heart. I was sure that I had failed and would be repeating the exam the next year! A friend took me out to dinner a couple of hours after the test and I was completely numb. I couldn't enjoy the food or the company. I just felt inadequate.

    When I returned home, I carefully packed away all my exam materials in preparation for their use the following year. I avoided eye contact with any of my colleagues or staff in case someone asked me, "How did it go?"

    One week after the exam, I got my letter stating I passed and I celebrated like there was no tomorrow! I happily passed all my materials on to my coworker who was working on her caselisst for the exam the following year.


Comments on posts older than 14 days are moderated as a spam precaution. So.Much.Spam.