The Making of a Good Radiologist Today!

This week’s New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has an article titled “Holistic Review – Shaping the Medical Profession One Applicant at a Time” that describes how some medical colleges in the US are now assessing medicine applicants more holistically than just on their academic grades. This allows the selection of candidates who will have not only the knowledge required to practice medicine, but the ability to communicate better with patients, to work in teams and to deliver better all-round care.

A similar article by Dr. Pauline Chen in 2010, in the New York Times, describes what the “right stuff” to be a doctor and also the importance and use of personality tests to predict how students will perform as physicians. Recently, she has written another similar article that discusses a medical student who was very good with her knowledge but had poor communication skills and an inability to get along with her colleagues and peers, but couldn’t be “flunked” for these shortcomings.

A comment by Dr. Deniz Ones, in the 2010 article by Dr. Chen is very interesting, ““If a medical school is all about graduating great researchers, then I would tell them not to weigh the results of the personality test that heavily…But if you want doctors who are practitioners, valued members in terms of serving greater public, then you have to pay close attention to these results.”

This also applies to radiologists. If being a radiologist was only about reading images on a workstation or view-boxes without patient interaction, then all that we would require is knowledge and the ability to work fast, accurately and to deliver quick turn-around times.

But that is not what being a radiologist is about. I had addressed this issue partly in an editorial in the Indian Journal of Radiology & Imaging in 2008, where I summarized “All our radiology reports need to answer the ‘why’ question. To do this, we must be thorough with our understanding of the clinical situation and the answers being sought by our clinical colleagues. For this to happen well, we must subspecialize and be able to speak the same language as our clinical colleagues. Subspecialization inherently means that we need to work with other radiology subspecialists in a group practice; both academically and in general, this would automatically lead to a better quality of life.”

A good radiologist has the ability to deliver results accurately and in a timely manner. Dr. Woodcock in a short article distils this into the three “A”s of Affability, Availability and Accuracy. The Royal College of Radiology has specific guidelines. It also means not shying away from leadership positions in hospitals and practices and actual patient consultations.

In the end, as radiologists we must realize that as radiology becomes more and more important to patient management in many disciplines, we have the unique opportunity and ability to be a part of and perhaps in many situations the pivots that can make a difference…this involves moving away from the workstations and view-boxes and interacting more and more with patients, other radiologists and our physician and surgeon colleagues. And apart from knowledge, this also requires us to have good communication skills, bedside manners and empathy.

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