Why Choose Radiology?

Am. College of Radiology-AMCLCThis post was contributed by Jacqueline Bello, MD, FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology Commission on Quality and Safety.

Friday, March 16 is “Match Day” – when the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) releases results. This may be the most significant day of the year for approximately 40,000 medical students seeking residency positions in the United States.

Recently, a medical student debating between radiology and another specialty reached out to me with several questions.

Here is the abridged version of my responses:

Q – What is a typical day like as a radiologist? 

As a radiologist, every day counts – not only in terms of personal satisfaction, but also for the difference I make in the care of each patient whose scan I read, or procedure I perform.

I have the opportunity to discuss patients’ care with them, or with their primary doctors who come to me for help. In between reading scans, I often take phone calls asking what is the best imaging study for this condition, or can I explain the significance of the findings I reported?

Surgeons ask whether I agree that surgery is (or isn’t) necessary, and whether I think a tumor is likely to be benign or malignant. Medical specialists ask me to compare pre- and post-treatment scans for patients on experimental drug trials, to see whether they should continue or change treatment.

I used to also do a lot of neurointerventional procedures, ranging from “busting” clots in acute stroke, to coiling ruptured aneurysms, embolizing arterial venous malformations, draining abscesses and performing pain management procedures, all under image guidance.

Q – What factors did you take into consideration when deciding on a specialty? 

I tried to objectively judge my “happiness level” during various clinical activities. I tried NOT to assume that my professional experience would necessarily mirror that of a physician with whom I was impressed. Instead, I tried to imagine myself in that particular daily work experience.

I also “ruled out” certain specialties based on their limited focus. I enjoyed learning about the entire human body in medical school, so did I really want to deal with just eyes if I specialized in ophthalmology? (Not to underestimate their importance, especially for a radiologist!)

Q – What do you like, and dislike, about radiology?

What I like most is being the “go to” person in diagnosis, and being able to contribute to treatment. Hard to think of dislikes… my pager comes to mind.

Q – If I decide to pursue a residency in radiology, what do you recommend in terms of rotations, extracurricular activities and research? 

Places, like people, have personalities, and you will do best in training where you feel most comfortable, based on the people and the program’s style.  Consider joining an interest group in radiology (if your school has one), and become a student member of the ACR and RSNA.

Now a question for you – How would you respond to medical students interested in our specialty?

  • Why did you choose radiology or radiation oncology?
  • What do you like best – and least – about your job?
  • What recommendations do you have for rotations, extracurricular activities and research?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and join the discussion on Engage (login required).

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