What I Wish I’d Known

Radiologists from around the specialty share their best advice for a younger version of themselves.

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No matter where you are in your career, chances are someone else has already been there. This month, the Bulletin brings together radiologists from throughout the specialty to give advice to their younger selves about what they wish they’d known earlier in their practices.


Dear Dr. Chin,

Over the course of your clinical practice, you will work in many different environments, from a small single hospital practice to a 70-radiologist group covering most of the greater Los Angeles area to a free-standing diagnostic and interventional radiology center. Here are some things that will help you on your way:

• Maintain and increase your skill set, seeking out opportunities to learn new skills needed to address the changing demands of your practice environment and the requests of your clinical colleagues.


• Grab every opportunity to learn about billing, operations, and the business of radiology. Don’t simply depend on your associates to do this work for you. Either you can have a fighting chance of controlling the business of radiology or it will control you.


• Network in your hospital. Become well known and liked by your administrators, middle managers, and clinical colleagues. Seek out opportunities to get to know your referring physicians to share your expertise and make yourself invaluable.


• Network in your practice. In the era of productivity benchmarks and PACS, it is more and more difficult to get to know your own associates. View your group as a team, and share cases. It will make your practice more interesting and rewarding professionally, and you will learn.


• Network in your specialty. Take every opportunity at local, regional, or national meetings to connect with other radiologists. They will be your eyes and ears to the world of radiology beyond your own practice.


• Expect change. Everyone is comfortable with the status quo, but you must embrace change with renewed vigor and vision. You cannot always know what’s coming next. But you should practice scenario planning and try to prepare for the foreseeable challenges. Never assume that what happened to your neighbor can never happen to you. Burying your head in the sand is just not effective.


• Help create a better system. We exist in a world of productivity benchmarks. But instead of gaming the system of RVUs, work to envision a new blueprint for health care, one that builds on teamwork, professionalism, and improved patient care.


• Give back. Look for ways to do good, like teaching, volunteering in your community, and mentoring others.


• Get to know your patients every chance you get. These encounters will become the most rewarding, meaningful, and magical moments of your career.

Kenneth W. Chin, MD, FACR Medical director of interventional radiology at San Fernando Valley Interventional Radiology and Imaging Center, Encino, Calif.


Dear Dr. Chokshi,

The most important advice I can give you relates to mentorship. When you’re in training or recently finished, you are learning to balance new priorities both professionally and personally. You will find that it is better to be part of a team than to travel along your career path solo. A network of mentors is the key to navigating the often murky waters of career advancement, work-life balance, and organizational radiology involvement. Yes, that’s right — a network of mentors, not just one. A single mentor has his or her own biases, perspectives, and skill sets. With a network of mentors, you can harness the advice, talents, and support of many experts, depending on your particular questions and needs. Here are a few key points for establishing a successful menteementor relationship:


• Take the lead. The mentee should drive the relationship. The mentee should seek out the mentor, ask for advice, and be the one to initially frame the relationship. It’s you — not your mentor — who needs the guidance, so ask for it.


• Prepare for your meetings with your mentors. Having a written agenda for the meeting will enable an efficient and productive session and it shows your mentors you respect their time.


• Get specific. Although big-picture discussions (such as overall career plan and general advice) are important, you will benefit most by narrowing down your questions. For example, asking your mentor how to get involved with specific health policy initiatives in the ACR will be more productive than just asking how one can “get on committees.”


• Don’t force it. Not all relationships are meant to be. The mentorship relationship is a dialogue and both parties should benefit. If mutual respect for each other’s time, intelligence, and effort is lacking, it is best not to continue. The key is to always be respectful and avoid burning any bridges.


• Show your appreciation. If you find someone who takes an interest in you, make sure you recognize it. A simple thank you can go a long way.

Falgun H. Chokshi, MD Assistant professor of radiology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta Director of neuroradiology services, Emory University Hospital Midtown, Atlanta

 

Dear Dr. Davila,

I have a few things to tell you. The first is to be patient. Change takes time. When you finish training, you will be ready to engage your new career to the fullest. You will want to do what is best for your group (in your opinion) and do whatever is necessary to make this happen. The process with which you try to spark change will have lasting effects that will take years to reverse if not done in the appropriate fashion.

It is important to keep in mind perspective. The perspective with which you interpret any situation is based on your life up until that point. Others in your group will likely see things much differently than you. Group members will be facing individual challenges and will be at various stages of their lives, which will give them perspectives much different from yours. Neither is necessarily correct or incorrect. As you learn about specific issues within your group, keep in mind that there is usually more than one right way of doing things successfully. You will not be right all the time, and it is important to remember that when standing firmly on any issue.

Timing is paramount to implementing any good idea. You will see many good ideas rise up only to be defeated within your practice. This is okay. Don’t take it personally and don’t forget about the ideas or think that they will never be implemented. Be patient. Change takes time. If an idea has merit and withstands the test of time, it will eventually be implemented in some form.

Stay engaged, but take breaks. You are on a marathon. If you are lucky, you will be with your group for a long time. It is important not to burn any bridges or sever communication with others in your group. There will be times when you will be exhausted or frustrated from the group politics or specialty-wide issues. Be patient. Change takes time. But never give up or say that your opinion doesn’t matter. Always get back into the marathon.

In the end you will find that, regardless of how many issues you won or lost within your group, the people with whom you ran your marathon will be the most important aspect of your career.

Jesse A. Davila, MD Department chair at Baptist Hospital, Jacksonville, Fla. Diagnostic radiologist at Drs. Mori, Bean & Brooks Radiology, Jacksonville, Fla.


 

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