Over the years, I have discovered that the best radiologists often do not comply with the stereotypical traits of one. For instance, you would think that the best radiologists all embrace technology. However, it is sometimes the opposite. Some of the best radiologists I know are the least technologically adept people you would ever meet, not able to conjure up an email password or conquer a new PACS system.
You would say that they would be masters of video games and spatial puzzles. Well, again, you would be squarely wrong. I know many-a-great-radiologist who find video games distasteful or who have no interest.
You would guess that the best radiologists have an “eye” for radiology from day one of radiology residency. Again, you would be incorrect. Some great radiology residents that I have trained had no clue how to read a film or make a finding on day one of residency.
So what is it that makes up the traits of the best of the best radiologists? Based on my experience, it is the following: enhanced clinical training, grit and determination, extreme organization, singular focus, and the passion for learning and maintaining scientific interest in our field. So, let’s go through each of these traits. Then, I’ll give you examples of how each allows some of the best radiologists to perform above and beyond the average radiologist. Finally, I will go through some recommendations on how you can train to be this great radiologist. Try to incorporate some this additional training or these personality quirks and traits into your daily practice.
Enhanced Clinical Training In Other Medical Fields
Some of the most incredible radiologists that I met had initially trained for a different medical subspecialty. The ones I know have either completed a second residency or participated in a residency in internal medicine or pediatrics for more than the required solitary clinical year. These radiologists have a complete understanding of the clinical issues involved in the patient’s films that they are reading. They take a step past the interpretation of the image and make it relevant for the clinician on the other end. They tend to know how to manage patients to a tee and use their skills to better the patient’s welfare. Excellent clinical management for a radiologist is a rare skill.
How can you add these traits to your practice in radiology? Participate in electives that involve interdisciplinary management. Question your fellow clinicians about the clinical significance of your interpretations. Shadow physicians in other specialties.
Grit and Determination
These excellent radiologists are folks that overcame incredible odds to get to where they are today. By sheer determination of will, they take an interpretation of a film to a new level, farther than the typical radiologist. They look into clinical issues more deeply than others. They don’t just stop at the conventional differential diagnosis. And, they can tell you the hows and the whys of what they find. When a clinician stops by, they are mesmerized by the litany of what these clinicians seem to know.
How can you add these incredible qualities to your arsenal? Don’t stop at the mere interpretation of the film. Look further into clinical history. Read up everything about the disease entity. Find out facts that would be clinically relevant to your patient’s care. Always look at priors that may have relevance to your case. Don’t be lazy with any of your imaging cases!
Incredible Organizational Skills
I have never met a great radiologist who has poor organizational skills. Conversely, the great radiologists I have met all have incredible organizational skills. These radiologists tend to keep track of all the patients they have ever seen. They use this information to interpret images and extrapolate the information to other patient’s circumstances. You can ask them about a case they may have seen a year ago, and they can go into their written or mental records and find it. They use all of this information for the betterment of patient care.
How can you become organized as a radiology resident? Always keep track of your unusual cases. Take pictures of the cases you see. Maintain a written or online notebook of what you learned. All these organizational skills will come in handy when you complete your residency and have questions about challenging cases.
Some of the most incredible radiologists have a single-minded focus that allows them to read cases, do research, or teach with such precision that they are best in their fields. They are not distracted by the daily minutia, the irrelevant red herrings, and the rumors of the day. They concentrate on their work and their work alone. These radiologists tend to miss very little. They are the type of radiologists that seem to have very few reports with errors and mistakes.
How can you maintain focus on your daily rotations? Maintain awareness of what you are doing at all times. Keep conversations and distractions to a minimum when you sit or stand to read multiple cases. The patient should be first and foremost on your day’s schedule. That is why we are here- to help people!
Passion For Learning/Maintaining Scientific Interest
Finally, the best radiologists I have encountered have a mission to either teach, research, or learn. They enjoy every minute of these processes and convey their passion to others in the specialty, whether they are fellow attendings, residents, nurses, techs, or patients. Moreover, their enthusiasm is infectious and inspires others to want to be the same. These are a rare breed and help overcome the problem of burnt-out physicians through teaching and personality. These radiologists go a step farther not because they have to, but because they enjoy radiology.
How can you become passionate about radiology? Don’t let the folks that complain all the time get you down. Find your path and what interests you. Don’t look to the negative, as those folks tend not to be the successful ones. People that love their specialty tend to become excellent at what they do. So, find your interests and passions and go with them all the way.
Final Inspiring Words
It is not typical traits such as being a techie, having “an innately good eye,” or being a puzzle master that makes a great radiologist. Instead, it is often those skills that we can work on that make us better than the average radiologist out there. So, go forth and learn about other specialties, keep determined, stay organized, maintain focus, and develop a passion for learning and radiology to become the best radiologist you can be!!!