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RSNA Study Finds that Early Radiology Exposure Could Lure Medical Students to Specialty

In a recent RSNA article, Dr. David Hovsepian MD and Dr. Terry Desser MD of Stanford's Radiology Department recently shed light onto what really leads medical students to choose a career in radiology. Often times, one wonders -- how did you end up choosing radiology?

Interestingly, radiology has experienced a boom in the best and brightest medical student applicants. However, perhaps due to declining reimbursements, a tougher job market, and rapidly declining sky-high radiologist salaries, medical students are showing interest in other subspecialties. With waning interest in radiology, Dr. Hovspian and Dr. Tesser attempt to explore why?!

In the article, Dr. Hovsepian states:
"Some of the shift has to do with students' misperceptions about what radiologists actually do and the central role that we often play in patient care" ... "We can't expect them to choose a career in radiology if we don't make this clear to them from the very start of their training."

"It used to be that you could complete a residency in medicine, for instance, and then do radiology and the government would keep paying for your training," Dr. Hovsepian said. "Now you have to choose your career path to do radiology specifically. From the standpoint of maintaining robust programs, we lose some vitality as well, since our residents now come from a less diverse pool as a result of that limitation."

Is it the lifestyle that drove medical students to radiology? Well according to Dr. Desser, it perhaps is the lifestyle that is better which drives medical students to choose radiology.

"They're looking for what's going to be intellectually stimulating, emotionally fulfilling and lucrative," Dr. Desser said. "Many students seem to be starting families at an earlier age and they all have massive amounts of debt, so they make a very practical calculation. They look at the income potential and lifestyle and radiology winds up pretty high on their list."

There is also a dramatic tectonic shift in radiology residency and fellowship training. Subspecialization is the key word. Radiologists are now driven to create and derive more value from their work through subspecialization. Even the ABR has recently restructured their testing format to reflect and some say (with much controversy) to encourage subspecialization. In either case, Dr. Howard P. Forman, M.D., M.B.A., a professor of diagnostic radiology and management at Yale University School of Medicine and chair of the American College of Radiology (ACR) Committee on Radiologist Resources has some interesting words to say in the article: "As long as that trend continues, we'll continue to see residents doing one or two fellowships at a minimum," he said.

Other issues that may draw medical students are charismatic mentors, teachers, and leaders in radiology. The RSNA article also discusses the resources such as academic research capacity of various programs. Some programs will continue to attract the best while others must work harder to attract medical students.

The article concludes by the elegant words of Dr. Desser:
Radiologists face an uphill battle in getting face time in the medical student curriculum, said Dr. Desser, but the fight is worth the effort. "We need to be the ones teaching them anatomy and about imaging and the manifestations of pathophysiology on imaging early in their training, so they recognize what we do and what we contribute."

For the full article, please visit the RSNA News webpage here.

by Jennifer Larson
Staff Writer and Community Manager
radRounds Radiology Network

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