Alternative Careers and Supplemental Income for the Radiologist
Every once in a while, a frustrated resident will say to me, “I’m not sure if I am interested in any of the traditional fellowships in radiology. What else can I do with my life? I am 250,000 dollars in debt and I don’t think I can stomach practicing radiology like everyone else for the rest of my life. I have no choice.” It is tough to think that after all the money, time, and effort, you have invested into a radiology residency, there may not be a career at the end of the road that you will enjoy. In addition, many radiologists think that if you are not practicing in one of the standard subspecialties, you are a waste to the specialty. And finally, many radiologists are not aware of all the opportunities out there in the world. But given these biases, it is no wonder this sort of atypical resident would need to address feelings of hopelessness.
Some radiologists and radiology residents just need other outlets for their talents and to find a different path. And, in truth, the potential for any radiology resident to have a career outside the confines of typical radiology practice that pays well and is intellectually rewarding is almost endless. Just remember, it is not an easy journey to get to the promised land of the alternative career opportunity. People that decide to take these alternative pathways may burn the proverbial “midnight oil” and take years to become an expert in an alternative career and become the top of their prospective field. But, if you are interested in seeking these possibilities, you have come to the right post!!!
Also, there are some radiologists that merely want to supplement their income from other sources in another area they may have interests. We will certainly discuss some of those possibilities as well.
So, I am first going to address where to look for these opportunities. And, in the second half, we will address the opportunities themselves, both the full-time career pathways and the supplemental income pathways.
Alternative Careers- Where to Look?
All physicians should know that there are outlets that exist for getting information and networking about alternative career opportunities. Let me give you a few that I know. First of all, there is a website out there that regularly posts jobs and career options outside of the mainstream radiology career path for physicians and healthcare professionals called the dropoutclub.org. This website posts all sorts of jobs that are currently available for physicians and contains a forum that discusses different issues for physicians seeking an alternative career. There are even sections within the website that approach how to interview for certain job types such as consulting.
There is also a website called seak.com that specializes in the area of legal/expert witness testimony. But, the website also contains information on all sorts of alternative career paths. In addition, there are loads of seminars and opportunities to potential network with other physicians in a similar situation.
Some recruiters are actively involved in findings residents and attendings that have interests in other career opportunities. They can sometimes be a helpful resource and may know of available jobs that may be relevant to the physician’s interests. But let the buyer beware! Although many recruiters are legitimate and truly want to help the physician, there are others that just want to make the sale at any cost even though the job or the career path may not be right for the applicant.
Finally, there may be physicians that you work with on a regular basis that perform other activities outside the daily practice of radiology. From my experience, I have encountered some colleagues that have started their own consulting business, invented medical devices, worked as an expert witness. wrote books, or performed other career activities outside of the typical realm of radiology. These people are great resources to learn about how to get a start in some of these alternative careers. I recommend talking to these people because they will give you a more realistic insight into traveling down these pathways that you may not get from a seminar, website, or recruiter.
What Are Some of the Opportunities?
In the interest of time and space, I cannot go into all the specifics of each career opportunity, but we can certainly paint some broad strokes about many of them. I will divide some of these opportunities into the following sub segments- Finance, Legal, Political, Consulting/Surveys, Pharmaceutical Companies/Research, Invention/Entrepreneurial. Teaching, and Writing. There are certainly other areas as well, but these are some of the areas that are most familiar to me that I can comfortably talk about.
Let’s start with finance, an area that lends itself to the alternative full-time career. This area seems to be one of the most “sexy” for many radiologists and radiology residents. You may think high pay, high profile. When you log on to the dropoutclub website, many of the posted jobs are in this realm. There are many hedge funds and large brokerage houses that seek people who can understand how companies operate in the biotechnology and medical world that may not be readily accessible to the typical lay person. Radiologists have a particular set of expertise in imaging devices and this focus may allow insight into companies that other medical professionals don’t have. You may be involved in the tasks of research and presenting information to the executives of a company. Or you may be involved in gathering information from clinicians. Some of the positions are geared to the entry level job and others are geared to the more experienced professional with finance experience. It is important to remember that you will probably be starting out low on the totem pole unless you have a strong finance background. Long hours are the norm. But, there is a very high pay potential. Just like becoming a full fledged radiologist, it is a long road!!
Let’s split this career pathway into two parts: becoming a litigator and expert witness work. The first pathway involves a full career change. You may hear of physicians that have also obtained their JD degrees to work in areas such as malpractice defense or even patent work. Both of these areas certainly lend themselves to the expertise of the radiology trainee. Getting a JD, may involve another 3 years of schooling with additional significant expense as well as a long path to a partner within a firm. So, this can be a tough road. Alternatively, you can think about doing this later on in your career after you have paid down some student loans. When there is a will there is a way!
More commonly, many radiologists participate in expert witness testimony as a way to supplement their income and maintain a footing in the legal realm. This pathway involves reviewing cases and providing opinions to attorneys. On occasion, you may even be involved in expert witness testimony or a deposition in court. Some physicians exclusively provide support for the defense of physicians and others may work for either side. It can certainly be interesting work and can give you a new perspective on the legal side of radiology and medicine.
Ever thought about becoming the next Ben Carson or Bill Frist? If they can do it, you certainly can too. Some residents are politically inclined. They may like being involved in hospital committees and organizations. They also may like being in charge of their residency program as chief resident and being involved in liaison work between the attendings and residents. If this is the avenue you want to take, there are certainly ways of making your future success more probable.
I would recommend residents to look into the Rutherford-Lanty Fellowship in Government Relations, organized by the ACR. According to the website, “it allows residents to gain an understanding of state and federal legislative and regulatory processes and the ACR role therein. It also informs residents about the governmental factors that play important roles in shaping the future of radiology.” This would be a perfect entree into the world of political action. There are also annual meetings such as an interesting RLI Leadership Summit held annually where residents can learn about health care leadership opportunities.
I also think this sort of resident should get involved in hospital, regional, and/or national organizations and actively seek opportunities to participate in leadership roles. Half of politics is networking. The bigger your network, the more likely you can get involved in a political career.
The word consulting is a very broad term. Consulting work incorporates many different entrepreneurial and employed entities as well as part time work such as surveys. So, I am going to divide it into two parts.
Consulting as a career
I will begin with the full-time career path. There are some companies that specifically hire physicians to provide expert consultation for businesses. One such well-known company is called Mckinsey & Company. In addition, there are niches in which someone with a unique background may have expertise. If you have prior training and interest in software engineering, for instance, you want to utilize your skills to become an independent consultant in the area of software development, PACS, etc. You can potentially leverage this area of expertise to start your own company or work with large companies to assist in product development, increasing efficiency and customer satisfaction, and more. Consulting work is unique to the individual’s talents, opportunities, and imagination.
Many physicians, such as myself, will occasionally participate in telephone or internet surveys. Often times, a consulting company will want to get the input from radiologist about new products or the business/political environment. There are a bunch of different companies to which you can sign up and get involved with their surveys. I make sure when I participate in these surveys that the time spent is worth my while. I have found the following survey/consulting companies to be fairly reliable, compensate fairly well, and have a decent amount of work for radiologists: GLG group and M3 Global Research. Be careful not to participate in surveys from companies that only offer prizes for a random winner that participates in a survey. It’s probably not worth your while. You are a professional and your time is certainly worth something!
There are many opportunities for physicians in this realm. Again, you will be starting at the very bottom. You just have to accept that. But, there have been some very interesting opportunities available for radiologists.
At my former job, I participated in the reading of imaging studies for pharmaceutical clinical trials. Many large companies still want physicians/radiologists reading their images to make their studies more powerful and legitimate. You can also get involved in structuring the studies and negotiating with companies to provide these services when you get to a higher level within the company.
Additionally, if you are inclined toward research, there are many opportunities to run a research department in a large pharmaceutical company, typically involved in imaging research. Many pharmaceutical companies give significant opportunities to radiologists/physicians to climb the corporate ladder. Remember though, there is certainly a bit less stability with a pharmaceutical company career, compared to the typical radiology career. But then again, you are reading this because you are not the typical radiologist!
Maybe you have the next great idea. And, you just need an avenue to implement it. There are many radiologists who have gone down that pathway. Unfortunately, it does take a lot of work including research/development, funding, marketing/advertisement, salesmanship, and so on/so forth. There are also no guarantees that your product/idea is going to succeed. So, it is best to stick with your first career until the idea/product/company becomes large enough to support you full time. But, the rewards can be immense for the hard working entrepreneur.
Many colleges and large universities need quality scientists to teach their courses. Radiologists certainly qualify!!! If interested in this realm, you may consider contacting a school to find out what are their needs. This can begin as a supplemental income or can become a career avenue. In addition, if you have a particular expertise in a certain area in radiology, there are also entrepreneurial opportunities to begin your own course/curriculum/school and build it over time.
Welcome to my world!!! I am fairly new to the blogging industry. But, it is a great way to get your name out there. In fact, starting a website and writing is a great platform for other career and business opportunities, whether it be writing a book, consulting, or whatever/wherever your interests lie. Also, if you have a hankering for this avenue, there are also many opportunities to write for others as a freelancer or work for medical organizations that need writers that can translate medical jargon to the general public. The opportunities are extensive. Of course, you can also decide to write the next great novel and become the next Michael Crichton!!!
All These Pathways. So Little Time.
I bet many of you didn’t know that there were so many alternative careers pathways and avenues for supplemental income for the radiologist. So, for those of you that are not sure you want to stick with the typical radiology career, don’t despair! All it takes is a bit of imagination, time, and hard work, and you too can find an outlet for your talents and your loves, whether it be a part time gig or a full blown career.
Would love to hear any comments or thoughts!!!