During the AUR meeting this year, one of the speakers announced that more medical students than ever used radiology as a backup specialty. Well, how can that be? I mean radiology is a fantastic specialty, right? Yet, our own medical students have chewed us up and spit us out. At that point, you could just about hear the moans and groans in the background of the lecture hall. But then, I thought about it and felt a bit differently. Why? Well, that is what I would like to delve into today.
Most Applicants Don’t Know What They Want
Over the years, I have found that most applicants to radiology, similar to other specialties, think they know what they want. However, when you dig a bit deeper, you find out that they are not really sure. Hell, I had no clue when I entered the specialty. In fact, when you ask an applicant why do you want to go into specialty X, many of them have a difficult time verbalizing their true motivations. Often you hear, “I like using my hands” or” I like coming up with differential diagnoses.”
Truthfully, however, these reasons are at best nonspecific. And, if you dissect what these residents are actually saying, you would recognize that the reasons why an applicant claims to have applied to a specialty have no bearing upon what he really wants. You can apply to surgery, interventional radiology, urology, and other specialties to use your hands. Or, you can come up with differential diagnoses in almost any specialty in the medical field.
More often than not, applicants bury the real reason for applying to a specific specialty deep within the psyche. Perhaps, they really want to say it’s the lifestyle, the culture, or the money. So, how can we become offended by medical students that don’t really know what they want?
Our Specialty Is Getting Noticed!
In order for applicants to apply to our specialty, even as a backup, it means that they must have some foreknowledge about us, to begin with. That means we are doing something right. Maybe, we are training more medical students about imaging in medical school. Or, perhaps, they are hearing about an improving job market. In either case, it means that residents have found reasons to apply to us even though it may not be their first choice!
A Badge Of Honor
Only a few years ago, the applications to radiology had dropped precipitously. In addition, the quality of applications had significantly decreased as well. Instead today, we have once again become respectable enough to apply to! In fact, we are returning to the old norm. So, we should feel excited that qualified applicants are once again considering our specialty.
So, We Are A Backup Specialty, Should We Be Offended?
Back to the original question again… Let’s look at radiology for what it really is. It’s one of few specialties that allow physicians the flexibility to pursue so many avenues and satisfy the academic and clinical wants of most. And now, if we really dissect the reasons that residents perceive us as a backup, I think we should not become offended. Instead, we should give the new applicants some credit. They are beginning once again to recognize the specialty of radiology for what it is: an excellent choice for a great career!