A Perfect Match
New data shows medical students are drawn to radiology as a specialty.
Robert H. Paley, MD, a diagnostic radiologist, demonstrates an IR procedure to Keiko Cooley, a student at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Greenville, at the AMA’s 2018 Medical Student Workshop in Washington, D.C.
Recent advances in machine learning have led to speculation in the lay press that AI might one day replace human radiologists. It’s been reported that some medical students have decided not to specialize in radiology because they fear the jobs will cease to exist. Data from the 2018 Main Residency Match, however, indicate that medical students are not deterred from pursuing radiology as a profession. U.S. diagnostic radiology programs were 100 percent filled, with no programs posting any unfilled first-year radiology residency positions.
“We had more applicants and fewer unfilled positions than we’ve had for years, with a near 100 percent match,” says Lori A. Deitte, MD, FACR, chair of the ACR Commission on Publications and Lifelong Learning and professor of radiology and vice chair of education at Vanderbilt University.
According to Deitte, the numbers represent a rebound from just a few years ago, when radiology was thought to be a less desirable specialty for medical students. For example, in 2014 only 88.3 percent of diagnostic radiology residency programs reported being filled with first-year applicants, according to data from the National Resident Matching Program.1 Some factors that may have contributed to the upswing of radiology in the 2018 match include the following:
• The engagement of medical students through diagnostic radiology and IR interest groups, student symposiums, and activities designed for students at national meetings• The inclusion of the new IR residency into the match
• Physician recruiting firms’ increased demand for radiologists
• Outreach activities and mentoring for underrepresented minorities and women
• An increased focus on the role of the radiologist in providing patient-centered care
Deitte notes that the improved match statistics are also the results of efforts from many different groups, including organizations such as the ACR. “The restructured radiology curriculum allows for greater flexibility on how fourth-year residents spend their time, and many residency programs now include leadership training,” says Deitte. “Leadership activities at the state and national levels also provide a forum for residents to connect with peers and other leaders in radiology. These activities foster the development of future leaders who are engaged and committed to making a difference as a radiologist in our healthcare system. Connecting medical students with radiology residents can help increase student awareness of the many leadership opportunities in radiology.” Deitte believes these leadership opportunitiesso than other specialties because of the opportunities for career growth.
Eliot L. Siegel, MD, FACR, professor and vice chair of research information systems in the department of diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine at the University of Maryland, often gets emails from medicalradiology. He believes the perception of AI is the major factor behind the trepidation. Based on a questionnaire Siegel and his team conducted of medical and osteopathic students, over 75 percent of students surveyed believe AI will have a moderate to major impact on their future practice. “As a radiologist who does research in this area, there’s absolutely zero chance that radiologists are going to be replaced by computers in the next 20 years and well beyond that,” says Siegel. “In fact, AI is going to make radiology a more interesting and exciting specialty.”
Claire E. Bender, MD, MPH, FACR, chair of the ACR Commission on Human Resources and professor emerita in the department of radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., agrees. “AI is in the infancy of what it can and cannot do,” she says. “Overall, radiology will gain more tools because of AI. These tools will still need the expertise of well-trained radiologists to be correctly applied. To this end, the ACR Data Science Institute™ works with the government and industry to guide the development and implementation of AI tools to help improve medical imaging care.”
Bender and Deitte both believe that as long as radiologists stay engaged, the future of radiology looks bright with or without AI.
“The 2018 match has shown us that our applicants are phenomenal, full of enthusiasm, and committed to making a difference,” says Deitte. “Our goal is to build on this momentum as we look to the future.”
By Maria A. Qadri, PhD, freelance writer, ACR Press.
1. Results and Data: 2018 Main Residency Match. Available at bit.ly/Match-2018. Accessed July 29, 2018.