Head of the Class
Radiology is constantly changing, making education a must regardless of your career stage.
Radiologists today face mounting pressures, including increased self-referrals, reimbursement contingencies, and patients' fears about radiation safety. As a result, imagers undoubtedly realize that their highly competitive specialty is rapidly changing and requires advanced skills and training.
The changing environment doesn't just affect practicing radiologists, however. Residents work harder than ever to secure fellowships, and retirees are looking for ways to stay relevant as they work as locum tenens. In 2006, the ACR foresaw the need to focus on professional development and intense subspecialty training. To provide radiologists with a high-caliber educational experience, the College subsequently launched the ACR Education Center in March 2008 and has since redefined continuing education in radiology.
To meet radiologists' evolving educational needs, the center's faculty and staff have developed a series of "mini boot camps." These courses enable radiologists to gain subspecialty knowledge outside of fellowship and enhance their practical skills.
Bonus: Job Offers
For residents, Education Center courses not only boost self-assurance, but they also provide networking opportunities that sometimes lead to lucrative job offers. Anna E. Zavodni, M.D., who completed her radiology residency at the University of Alberta in Canada, and is now a fellow at the National Institutes of Health in the United States, has attended three mini boot camps at the ACR's facility. She says the intensity and quality of training helped her pursue a fellowship.
"Taking [the] courses gave me the confidence to apply for fellowships all over," explains Zavodni. "In a lecture-based course, you lose a lot of the experience. You don't even realize what you're missing until you have someone standing beside you, showing you what you missed and why."
Zavodni also says that the courses are a valuable way to learn from the same experts writing your textbooks and presenting at conferences. "You have a chance to talk to faculty, ask them questions, and get anecdotal and practical advice," she concludes.
“In all of my years of training and CME, the ACR Education Center’s approach is the most concentrated and meaningful way to learn.” — Thomas H. Milner III, M.D.
Practicing radiologists also like the low instructor-student ratio. Alex M. Westenfield, M.D., a radiologist at Wright Medical Center in Clarion, Iowa, has attended five courses since the center opened. He continues to sign up for these "mini fellowships" because of the hands-on learning and case engine, loaded with imaging scenarios. "The faculty is available and present to answer questions and discuss situations," Westenfield adds.
He also believes that the knowledge he has taken back to his practice has helped him gain self-assurance in his diagnostic abilities. Furthermore, it has advanced his privileges and credentials, resulting in more referrals.
Among the greatest benefits, he notes, are those passed on to his patients. "[Patients] don't have to travel for procedures because the subspecialty expertise I have now acquired means that they can come directly to me," he explains.
For retired radiologists, ACR educational courses can be equally enticing. Thomas H. Milner III, M.D., recently completed two consecutive courses at the Education Center. During his retirement, Milner hoped to fill in his spare time with occasional part-time work.
He discovered that employers now require certifications to prove subspecialty capabilities to work as a locum tenens and even as a teleradiologist. However, the certificate of proficiency that he earned through the requisite number of cases reviewed in his ACR courses more than satisfied these employer requirements.
"In all of my years of training and CME, the ACR Education Center's approach is the most concentrated, meaningful way to learn, with the focus on one modality and one part of the body," Milner says. "They call the courses here boot camps because you get to see every kind of case you can imagine. After taking the Body MR course, I feel I am now certified to perform the techniques."
With nine subspecialty courses, and two more coming this year, attendees have ample opportunity to expand their knowledge, read scans more efficiently, and feel confident in detecting disease. The center also provides an alternative to earning CME credit via hotel seminars, lectures in large auditoriums, and supporting publications. Visit www.acr.org/educenter for the 2011 course schedule.
By Mahnaaz Wolf