I am an M3 student, most likely applying to radiology next application cycle. I am interested in IR but do not have enough exposure to be dead set on an integrated IR residency. I was wondering about your opinions of applying to diagnostic radiology, specifically at programs with ESIR, and how feasible it is to knock a year off of the independent residency that we seem to be switching to through this option. Could you break down the ESIR pathway and how to transfer from DR to IR? Would this be the best option for someone not dead set on IR, or should I apply to integrated programs and pure diagnostic and rank them as I see fit when the match comes?
So, I am going to start by summarizing the three current pathways for interventional radiology at present:
- The “old-fashioned’ way involves a 4-year residency. But instead of needing a 1-year fellowship (as it was formerly), you now will require a 2-year fellowship. They call this the independent pathway.
- The ESIR pathway that you referred to. In this pathway, you must complete a full year of interventional-related rotations during your residency. At that point, you can then apply for a 1-year independent interventional fellowship.
- The DR/IR integrated pathway is an entirely separate five-year residency program.
The DR/IR program has three years of general radiology and two years of interventional-related rotations.
Specifically, regarding your situation, most residents who initially say that interventional radiology interests them usually find another subspecialty fellowship. So, if you aren’t entirely committed to interventional, chances are, you will do something else.
If you apply to a program with ESIR, you must tell your residency director reasonably early that you are interested in the ESIR pathway. The reasons for this: A. Multiple residents may be interested in ESIR. B. The residency may only accommodate one or two people because of scheduling requirements. C. The conditions for ESIR can disrupt the schedule of other residents in your class because of the need for additional dedicated IR time and less time on different rotations.
However, the significant advantage of an ESIR program is two-fold. First, it enables the ESIR resident to take the one-year interventional fellowship instead of the two-year fellowship. And second, it makes the ESIR resident more competitive in the fellowship match because they have some experience under his belt. Also, programs have limited their two-year independent fellowships for those not following the ESIR pathway.
More About IR/DR
If you attend a program that has an IR/DR program or an ESIR program, it is possible to transfer in and out of one program or another. However, IR/DR programs give the resident less flexibility. Remember, the IR/DR program maintains independence from radiology residency with its own program director and scheduling. Its sole goal is to create interventional radiologists. (Although it does happen to share the core exam with the radiology program, however). So, it is possible that if you decide to transfer to the DR portion of the program, you may not have enough rotations available to meet the residency requirements. Although unlikely, you theoretically may need to find a residency slot elsewhere.
If you are not entirely sure that interventional radiology interests you, I recommend finding radiology residencies with an ESIR program rather than an IR/DR program. Why? , an IR/DR program commits to you the process of becoming an interventionalist. If you go to an ESIR program, you will more likely have a little more time to decide upon entering into interventional radiology later. (but you should still make a decision as soon as possible). And the ESIR program fits within the confines of the diagnostic program. This program allows more transfer flexibility.
Remember, if all else fails, you can still complete interventional radiology by attending a standard DR program without ESIR. However, you may have a much harder time getting into the fellowship. That may make more sense than applying to an IR/DR program to find out you don’t like it.
So, those are my two cents. I hope that clarifies things a bit. I wish you good luck in the radiology match process!!!