‘It truly felt like a collaboration’ – Former NBME Intern Zarah Chaudhary Shares Her Experience

Posted January 29, 2021

For summer 2021, NBME’s Assessment Science and Psychometrics Internship Program will take place for a second time in an innovative, virtual format. Doctoral students studying measurement, statistics, cognitive science, medical education or a related field can apply for this research experience until Jan. 31, 2021. The program, which pairs each intern with seasoned NBME staff mentors to take on a project focusing on the assessment of medical professionals, has attracted accomplished candidates from across North America.

One of these individuals is Zarah Chaudhary, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia in the Measurement, Evaluation and Research Methodology program. Her summer research project focused on validity evidence of clinical reasoning on exams. Recently, NBME caught up with Chaudhary to discuss what it was like to work at NBME and collaborate side-by-side with experienced researchers.

What drew you to apply to this specialized internship at NBME?

[The internship] is at the intersection of measurement science and medical education, which is unique for someone who has conducted research in each of these worlds separately.

NBME is unique for the psychometric and statistical expertise it houses.  I was thrilled at the opportunity to be mentored by their staff, which included learning about the process of test development for high-stakes licensing examinations and understanding the operations and organization of the company.

What were your expectations for the program? What delighted you?

I expected that the internship would allow us to understand the work that goes on within the different units at NBME by way of listening to staff and their day-to-day work. That, it did. Learning from psychometricians first-hand about ongoing projects was one of the aspects that I enjoyed most.

The friendly personalities and collegial work culture were such pleasant surprises. More so, that my mentor and team members were open to new ideas and perspectives on our projects of interest in clinical reasoning—it truly felt like a collaboration.

An additional surprise was hearing from two leading figures invited from outside NBME that had unique knowledge about the field. They provided insight about future directions and work that we might want to get involved with.

This year’s program went virtual to uphold social distancing. What was that experience like?

The virtual space was instrumental for making it possible for this internship to even continue! For that, and the commitment to training young scholars even through a pandemic, I am immensely grateful.

The experience was still very exciting and enjoyable given the carefully curated ‘formal’ structure and programming of the internship sessions, together with regular virtual check-ins with mentors, opportunities for informal discussions with staff and our independent research activities.

What connections did you make with NBME team members?

The professional working relationship with my mentor, Measurement Scientist Christopher Runyon, was central to the success of the internship and one that will likely continue given our shared interests. This was also the enabling link to a much larger network of collaborators. While working together, we met with and received input from over ten team members ranging in years of experience and roles.

Beyond those, I am glad that I was able to informally connect with individuals who had similar academic backgrounds and trajectories to my own. Their sage advice and insights were some of the most memorable.

What did you learn from interning at NBME?

During the internship, I learned about the process of test development for high-stakes licensing examinations and gained a better understanding of the operations and organization of the company.

I also learned about the collegial nature of the work at NBME. I had the unique opportunity to be included in meetings as we discussed possible avenues for our research and longer-term projects at the intersection of measurement and clinical reasoning.

How has the internship influenced your education and career?

I’m confident it has launched me in an important direction and that the shared networks of collaborators will be instrumental to continuing this trajectory after I finish my training. The internship validated that my research endeavors were valuable, interesting to others and provided the encouragement to keep going.

Do you think you could be a great candidate for the Assessment Science and Psychometrics Internship program? Visit NBME Careers to apply today!

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