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The Medical Student Experience at ACR 2017
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been exposed to images and radiology equipment. My dad is a service engineer for medical imaging equipment, and I remember going to work with him and scrolling through images on a screen, or taking screws out of a CT cover, or seeing how close I could get to the MRI before the magnet started pulling on my braces.
In medical school, we’re exposed to images. We learn to identify anatomy on x-rays. We see images in nearly every clinical rotation, but we lack exposure to the work of radiologists. I decided early in third year to pursue radiology because I enjoy physics, I love the detective work, and I appreciate that radiology permeates all specialties. One mentor told me to choose the specialty where I feel like I belong, but 3rd year students at my school only get to spend 2 elective days in radiology — how could I know if I belong after 2 days?
My medical school has no radiology interest groups, so I literally did a Google search for a radiology conference where I could meet residents and attendings and learn about the future of radiology. I decided to attend the ACR annual meeting because it was convenient and appeared medical-student-friendly, but little did I know how monumental that decision would be for me. At ACR, I was immersed in the culture of radiology. I attended a variety of sessions, from “Financial Planning for the Early Career Radiologist” to “Incidental Findings in the Abdomen,” which reported on new evidence-based algorithms and ideas on the management and reporting of incidental findings. At “Tips They Didn’t Teach You in Residency,” I learned skills for interviewing, insight into negotiation, and conflict resolution — skills that are essential not only in the workplace but in life. I accidentally attended “Imaging Informatics: What You Didn’t Learn in Residency That Your Employer Thinks You Did”; the presentation was way over my head, but it was still incredible to see features of radiology that are unknown to medical students.
I’ve never had much interest in politics, but Capitol Hill Day was one of the most extraordinary things I’ve done. Capitol Hill was overtaken by radiologists meeting with legislators from their state and advocating for policies about which they are passionate. Previously, I thought “advocacy” was big companies trying to influence the votes of legislators. Advocacy can also be radiologists providing expert information so that Congressional representatives understand the impact of proposed legislation before voting. A significant part of a physician’s calling is to advocate for patients, and I was able to experience that advocacy on the highest level.
As medical students, we are the low men on the totem pole. We don’t feel important or valued. We’re accustomed to replying “I’m just a medical student....” But at ACR, physicians would see the words “MEDICAL STUDENT” boldly printed on my name tag, words for which I felt mildly self-conscious, and they would exclaim, “Oh! You’re one of our medical students! We’re so glad to have you here!” I felt privileged to be a medical student. Never mind the sophisticated hors d’oeuvres, open bars, lunch at Capitol Hill Club, being chauffeured around in limo-buses—the welcoming atmosphere I experienced at the ACR meeting made me feel proud to have chosen radiology and fortunate to be a part of this culture and these people.
Every specialty attracts a certain type of person—you know the stereotypes. Accordingly, in choosing a specialty, it is important that one gets along with the people of that specialty. The people of the ACR are excellent, authentic, enjoyable people. A feeling of belonging with the radiologists of the ACR solidified my decision to go into radiology, and I am so glad I attended the conference.
By Joley Beeler, medical student, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks