Engaging Medical Students and Residents to Choose Pediatric Radiology

drsouthardThis post was contributed by Richard N. Southard, MD, Vice Chairman of Clinical Operations, Director of CT and Cardiac Imaging, Co-Director of the 3-D Innovation Lab at Phoenix Children’s Hospital

To address the on-going physician shortage in Medicine in general, radiology specifically, and my chosen subspecialty of pediatric radiology especially, I need insight about the young adults, medical students and residents whom we are trying to recruit.

These medical students and residents are late Generation Y/Millennials (born 1981-1994), and early Generation Z (born 1995-2012). This technologically savvy generation grew up with computers, and despite being able to instantaneously “connect” via social media, they still seek out and value being with friends and experiences. They also value social equality, want to make a positive impact in a supportive workplace and desire a stable future.

In an article discussing the factors influencing subspecialty choice among residents, Arnold, et al [2009], questioned radiology trainees about their motivations and perceptions of the subspecialty fields when selecting radiology fellowships. Leading factors for the residents were areas of strong personal interest, advanced multi-modality imaging, intellectual challenge, marketability and enjoyable resident rotations. Financial compensation was relatively unimportant.

I completed a pediatric internship and residency before going into radiology. The aspects of pediatric medicine which appeal to me are working with kids, interacting with families, making a positive impact on pediatric care, and the challenges of a multitude of diseases. Pediatric radiology today still has a wonderful blend of patient and family interaction; general to subspecialized clinician interaction; advanced imaging modalities such as ultrasound, MRI, CT, and Nuclear Medicine; and cutting edge hardware and software technologies such as elastography, musculoskeletal ultrasound and interventions, the latest MRI techniques, dual-energy Spectral CT, 3-D modelling and volumetrics, molecular imaging and PET/SPECT/CT. My daily work involves supportive colleagues, an incredible breadth and depth of technology and a large number of disease processes to consider. Pediatric radiology affords me the ability to be a subspecialist and a generalist at the same time, and it is never boring.

Many residents select their subspecialties prior to their 3rd and 4th years, and rotating residents at children’s hospitals typically are in the later stages of training, leaving us at a disadvantage in recruiting bright residents into pediatric radiology fellowships. How to address this problem?

There is need to engage medical students and residents through earlier elective rotations, radiology lectures in medical school or clubs, developing active department research opportunities for medical students and residents and social media such as daily cases on Instagram. One could attract pediatric residents who already show a strong interest in pediatric care into radiology by showing them a welcoming patient-friendly work environment that maintains personal interactions, and our role as an active care team member positively impacting children’s health. The radiology profession is technologically advanced and intellectually challenging, and the multiple imaging modalities are becoming more advanced.

Given the shortage of, and great need for, pediatric fellowship trained radiologists in both private practice and academic settings, these skills remain highly marketable. Compensation and benefits, and flexible work environments, remain good for radiologists.  The role we imagers play in the diagnosis and delivery of health care is both meaningful and rewarding. In my opinion, radiology is the perfect job for today’s medical students and residents to consider.

  • How are you engaging medical students to pursue a career in pediatric radiology, or another subspecialty?
  • Have you been leveraging the new resource, RadInfo 4 Kids, in your practice?

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