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Barriers to Choosing Radiology
When much of the general public thinks of a radiologist, they think of someone who sits in a dark room all day, staring at a computer. Another common perception is that radiologists choose the profession because it is the easiest job and garners the best pay. The last, and perhaps most upsetting perception, is that radiologists choose the field to avoid human contact. However, in my time as a medical student I have found radiologists to be some of the most sociable physicians that I’ve encountered.
For many medical students, these stigmas serve as barriers to choosing radiology. I personally struggled to reconcile my radiology experience with the reaction I received from others when I told them I was considering pursuing it as a career. Sure, I’ll spend much of my day sitting in a dark room “staring” at the computer. However, what’s happening in the mind of a radiologist as they analyze images is extraordinary. Radiologists must maintain a wide breadth of knowledge about a diverse range of specialties. In fact, this was one of the reasons that I chose radiology — it affords me the opportunity to continue building on all aspects of my medical education.
Practicing radiology is far from easy. It was my impression as a medical student that radiologists spend a large portion of their day doing intellectually strenuous tasks. Furthermore, radiology has become a 24/7 service in most hospitals, which requires radiologists to work overnight and weekend shifts just like many other specialties.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle in choosing radiology was the perception that radiologists seek to avoid human interaction. From those that know me well, I was told I was wasting my potential choosing a field that was devoid of patient contact. Upon hearing that I was interested in radiology, one physician who did not know me exclaimed, “Oh! So you hate people…” Those types of comments troubled me deeply. My experience with radiology has been filled with interpersonal communication in a variety of forms. While some radiologists may chose this field to carve out a niche that allows them to have limited social contact, my experience in academic radiology seemed to show this type of radiologist to be in the minority.
After much internal turmoil, I was finally able to reconcile what I saw radiology to be with what others’ perceptions of it were. Through my radiology rotations, I discovered that radiologists have ample interactions with other physicians, support staff, and patients. I also found that radiology gave me the opportunity to continue to build on most of the knowledge that I’ve gained in medical school, which is something that I value greatly. I am thankful to those who’ve helped me gain confidence in my decision to pursue this profession. In order for radiology to remain a specialty that grabs the interest of top medical students, the field will have to work diligently to dispel the unwarranted stigmas. I look forward to working with students throughout residency and will make it a priority to portray an accurate view of the specialty.
By Anderson Webb, MD, University of Tennessee College of Medicine, University of Chicago Department of Radiology