Putting together jigsaw puzzles is one of those hobbies that residents love to add to their ERAS resume, especially during Covid. I mean, what better way to spend your time when you have been quarantined in your apartment, right? To give you an idea of how popular jigsaw puzzles have become, out of every five or ten applications that I review, I see one that briefly mentions this pastime. Presumably, therefore, residents must think that jigsaw puzzles must have something to do with the practice of radiology.
To help me find the connections between radiology and jigsaw puzzles, I did a very brief internet literature search to see what I could find on this topic. But I couldn’t find much. So, let’s sort out for ourselves how strong the correlation is between the love for jigsaw puzzles and the ability to practice radiology. The connections or lack thereof might not be as apparent as what you might think!
Where Jigsaw Puzzles Overlap With Radiology
When you have a three thousand-piece puzzle, you need to have some concept of geometry. Why? It is almost impossible to complete the puzzle without recognizing the pieces’ asymmetry and how they fit together. It is a fundamental skill that radiologists also need. In what form? Well, our eyes always look for symmetry. Whether you look at a head CT or a chest film, many modalities require the reader to check for symmetry of density or contours. Therefore, in this sense, there is some overlap with the jigsaw puzzle.
To complete a jigsaw puzzle successfully, you need some strategy to get there. Most puzzle aficionados will begin with the corners and work their way to the edges. They might then sort the pieces by colors or design to find the most likely candidates to fit together. Regardless, it is next to impossible without some organization to get to the end goal of completing a three thousand-piece puzzle or more. Likewise, all radiologists need some search pattern on any image to glean all the critical information from a film. If they forget to look at the spleen on a CT scan, you may miss a critical finding such as an infarct that could have helped you make the final diagnosis. This characteristic of jigsaw puzzlers is also vital for the radiologist.
Finally, to get through that puzzle of thousands of pieces, you need some tenaciousness and grit. It is just impossible to complete a jigsaw puzzle without that personality characteristic. It means sitting down for hours at a time staring at the construction site trying to mix and match multiple pieces. Only after putting the time in you can achieve your final goal of a completed puzzle. Radiologists also need to realize that they also need to read for hours and go through thousands of films to become a master or a radiology expert. Without putting in all this time, it next to impossible to practice radiology effectively.
What Being Good At Jigsaw Puzzles Doesn’t Mean
It Doesn’t Mean You Can Make The Findings.
Sure, you can put together that picture of a grassy knoll or a freeze fame photograph of your favorite show with 4000 puzzle pieces. But, it doesn’t mean that you will necessarily make that finding of the mouse sitting in the corner of the grass or the misspelled t-shirt on your favorite character. All it means is that you can put a picture together from many fragments because the colors, patterns, and shapes fit together. Finding the little details within the image is a whole other skill!
Being good at jigsaw puzzles does not mean that you necessarily understand the topic or theme of the puzzle you are putting together. Maybe, you liked putting that jigsaw puzzle showing a nebula of stars because it looked so dazzling. But, do you know anything about nebulae? Perhaps not; you don’t need to know that information to complete a puzzle. It helps to have a good baseline of knowledge to understand the images in radiology. Wisdom only comes with reading and an interest in learning.
Good Communication Skills
Does completing a jigsaw puzzle have anything to do with communicating the picturesque scene you just put together? Not! Jigsaw puzzles have very little to do with sharing what you know with others!
Finally, putting together a puzzle and identifying the picture doesn’t translate to understanding the jigsaw puzzle themes’ more profound meanings. You can complete a beautiful jigsaw puzzle without ever having to know why the water appears blue or why that character is smiling. It’s another leap to understand what is happening when you put together that final piece of the puzzle! We can indeed say the same about a radiologist who can identify the findings but can’t make a proper differential diagnosis!
Jigsaw Puzzles: What Do They Say About The Applicant?
Sure, there are some links between a radiology candidate quality and the ability to complete a jigsaw puzzle. However, there is undoubtedly a lot more that we need to assess before concluding whether an interviewee has all the qualifications before making a final decision. Geometric understanding and methodicalness/doggedness will take you further in our field. However, without all of the other components that go into becoming a great radiologist, it is certainly not enough—bottom line. Put your love for jigsaw puzzles on the application but be aware that you need to show us a lot more when you get to your interview!