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Real-Life Patient Encounters Put Board Questions to the Test

When does a test question become something more? When knowing the answer saves a life.

In a recent article for The New York Times Magazine, contributing author Lisa Sanders, MD, shares the story of a young patient experiencing unusual and worsening symptoms while struggling to receive a proper diagnosis. After several visits to her family physician and local emergency care facilities, the patient met Sonali Advani, MD, an infectious disease specialist certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. After reviewing the patient’s history, Dr. Advani quickly zeroed in on the diagnosis that had eluded her peers:

Rat-bite fever.

So, how did she do it?

According to Dr. Sanders, Dr. Advani “told me that she missed a question on a test she took to prepare for the infectious-diseases boards.” The question involved a patient who presented with the same rashes and painful joints as the patient on her examining table. When the patient mentioned horseback riding, and her exposure to barnyard rodents, Dr. Advani recalled what she’d learned from the question.

To read the full story, click here.

The American Board of Ophthalmology’s Quarterly Questions program is designed to create “a-ha” moments like the story above by focusing on everyday clinical ophthalmic knowledge. Questions are accompanied by real-time performance feedback, detailed explanations of the answers, and links to further reading on each topic. For more information, visit

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