Here are some scenarios: You’re about to finish medical school, and you’ve matched in radiology. Or, you are in the middle of your internship year, and you have begun to ponder your next year. If you find yourself in either of these situations, you most likely receive mixed messages on whether or not to prepare for your first year. Some of your “mentors” have probably relayed to you how they readied (if they did anything) for their first year of radiology.
When you hear some of these stories, many of those folks have some hidden motivations. Perhaps, they want to appear like they know it all. Or maybe, they want to make it seem like their decision was the right one. (Even though it may not have been) So, please listen to me. Having seen many incoming waves of medical students and residents coming through the department, I will give you the real lowdown. Here’s what you need to know when you start.
Should You Read Anything Radiology Related Before Starting Radiology Residency?
The short answer is yes. But, of course, I will go into a little bit more detail than that!
So, what do you need to know before beginning? For everyone, if nothing else, I would recommend that you at least relearn basic anatomy. Why is that? Since it is difficult to know what you need to learn in radiology when you have not entered into the field yet and radiology is so “anatomy intensive,” you are better off starting by reinforcing the general anatomy that you learned in medical school. For general anatomy, an anatomy book like Netter that you used during medical school will help you to recall the basics.
However, instead of learning anatomy the same way as your medical school course, I would take more of a cross-sectional anatomy approach. To do so, make sure to find a decent cross-sectional anatomy book to supplement Netter. Not only can you use it to learn cross-sectional anatomy, but this book would also be an invaluable reference source during residency and beyond. Even now, as an “old-timer,” I often use the Atlas of Human Cross-Sectional Anatomy: With CT and MR Images whenever I need a reference. A book such as this almost “pays for itself.”
Why is it so important to have a cross-sectional anatomy book to study? Well, that is how most of us radiologists interpret images. You need to know the anatomy to catch the pathology. So, when you begin, you will have the tools to learn the basics of radiology rapidly (since we are an anatomy intensive specialty!). If you prepare your cross-sectional anatomy before arrival, you will have a certain headstart over your colleagues.
How To Go About Additional Radiology Reading Before Starting Radiology
Fourth Year Medical Students
Since fourth-year medical students typically have a bit more time on their hands, what material would I recommend if you want to learn more than just cross-sectional anatomy? First, you can review the essential medical student texts like Learning Radiology. These sorts of books tend to contain the most basic information like how to read chest films, and so on. Also, they will review the essentials of the primary radiological modalities that you need to know. However, these texts will not go into enough detail to make you stand out.
But, if you are even more motivated, consider looking at the pictures and captions in a book like Brant and Helms. Then, you can review the subtext to reinforce the images. But beware! It is a long series. And, believe or not, even though it is long, it does not cover enough of the information you need to know to prepare. Most importantly, however, do not get discouraged if you cannot complete it. Any bit that you accomplish before starting residency helps.
OK. For interns, the first step is to make it through the year. You are probably going to be exhausted and lucky to pick up anything additional to read. So, I would probably stick with reviewing some basic cross-sectional anatomy at this point. In general, lack of time will prevent you from reading through a Brant and Helms type of book. But, if you feel you must go for it, by all means, try to read a little bit. Just don’t push it!
Final Advice On How To Prepare For The Beginning of Radiology Residency
Finally, my last bit of wisdom for the pre-radiology resident is that what you are doing now is very different from your radiology career! So, don’t wrap yourself up in the miseries of your clinical year. Remember… Your life will be very different from your medical colleagues. So, soldier forth, read a little bit if you can, and before you know it, the year will be over. Follow my advice, and you’ll grasp what you need to prepare to start your radiology residency!
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