Mohammad Naeem, MD
Q: What is it like being a military radiologist?
Military radiologists are not only physicians but also military officers and leaders, assuming administrative and supervisory responsibilities very early in their careers.
It is not uncommon to see graduating residents reporting to their first duty assignment as the chief of a small to mid-size radiology department, offering leadership opportunities very early to the nascent radiologist.
Career progression depends on professional competency as a radiologist, demonstration of leadership traits, and ability to handle crisis. The leadership potential is formally assessed, stratified, and reported to higher echelons at least annually. Like other officers, radiologists go through formal military combat training, deployments to austere environments, advanced military schooling, and executive-level leadership courses.
So far in my 11-year active duty career with the U.S. Army, I have had opportunities of a lifetime, including being the radiology residency director, serving as chief of a radiology department covering almost the entire mainland of Europe, deploying to Afghanistan, meeting foreign dignitaries, living in Europe for several years, visiting 24 countries, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, speaking at two dozen international conferences, and working with 12 different foreign militaries.
The average work week of a military radiologist can be quite colorful. In addition to daily clinical duties, my typical work week may include attending anti-terrorism courses, briefing higher command about dirty bombs and medical response, participating in disaster-response exercises, preparing for the Joint Commission inspection, and passing my defensive pistol shooting qualification test. This is all in a week's work for a military radiologist.
Mohammad Naeem, MD, lieutenant colonel in the United States Army and staff radiologist at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital