Q: How did you choose your subspecialty?
When I was a radiology resident, I have to admit that I was mystified by nuclear medicine. Residents sometimes jokingly called the field "unclear medicine."
How true it was back then. At that time, it was almost all planar imaging using small gamma cameras; single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) was just coming into its own. Radiologists were presented with transparent film depicting fuzzy images made up of dots that represented the biodistribution of a radiopharmaceutical. SPECT/CT and PET/CT were the stuff of science fiction.
I was drawn to the field for two related reasons: First, a fellowship would provide me with the opportunity for subspecialization so that I could practice with particular expertise in a radiologic discipline. As a natural problem-solver, I wanted to understand nuclear medicine better so that I could use this knowledge to care for my patients, teach others about the field, and develop the subspecialty through research. Second, the American Board of Radiology offered the companion Special Competence in Nuclear Radiology subspecialty certification. A piece of paper does not in itself establish credibility, but it is an external validation of subspecialty knowledge and skills. I wanted to obtain this certification so that I could be part of the select group of nuclear radiologists.
“A fellowship [in nuclear medicine] would provide me with the opportunity for subspecialization so that I could practice with particular expertise in a radiologic discipline."
Many years later, I continue to be intrigued by the power of nuclear medicine and its many diagnostic and therapeutic applications for patient care. It's amazing that in a single day, we can diagnose a postoperative hepatobiliary leak, coronary artery disease, and metastases from a wide variety of malignancies, and then go on to treat Graves' disease with radioiodine.
M. Elizabeth Oates, MD
Rosenbaum Endowed Chair of Radiology
University of Kentucky
Director, Integrated Medical Imaging