“How I Became a Radiologist”

Below is a guest post from Dr. Liu of Future Proof MD . I‘m always happy to post stories or experiences from pre-med/med students, residents, physicians or anyone who can add a new or unique prospective to #LifeofaMedStudent.


How I Became a Radiologist

 Choosing a specialty is possibly the most important decision you have to make as a medical student. As you probably realized by now, the physicians you work with are just as unique and varied as the patients.  While there are certain “type casts” (insert any Gomerblog post here) in every specialty, it should be no surprise that everyone has a different story.  Let me share with you how I became a radiologist (in-training) …


I went into medicine because of my grandfather. He was a country-side doc in a very poor old China and dedicated his life to serving a small rural village.  My dream was to follow in his footsteps and become the local doctor for a rural community.  In fact, my choice of medical school was heavily influenced by the quality of the associated family medicine program – I was 150% sure I was going to become a family doc.  However, as I progress through my medical education, I realized that the practice of medicine in the United States is very different from my home country of China.  For one, it is very difficult if not impossible for a general practitioner to be the expert on everything.  And two, I found myself very much bored at managing chronic conditions.  So I started looking for another career choice.

 As I try to imagine myself as something other than a family doctor, I stumbled into the field of pathology. Our pathology department offers a post-sophomore fellowship (PSF) to students between 2nd and 3rd year of medical school.  I took advantage mostly because I wasn’t satisfied with the answer to many critical questions in medicine – which is “we don’t know.”  For example, I found it completely unacceptable that it’s been well over 100 years and we still didn’t understand how Lupus worked.  Needless to say, I didn’t cure Lupus in my PSF year.  However, I did gain a great level of appreciation for pathologists.  During our immediate biopsy assessments and rad-path conferences, I found myself more intrigued by what’s on the computer monitor than under the microscope.  So I scheduled radiology as one of my first 4th year electives.  One of the first cases I observed was an intracranial aneurysm coiling – and the rest as they say – was history…

 As I prepare my IR fellowship application, I look back on my decision of becoming a radiologist and thank my lucky stars. I couldn’t think of a better fit!  Here are a few reasons why I love radiology:

 Being a geek, I’m drawn by technology and I’ve got to brag – we have the coolest toys. We literally see inside people!

  1. The diagnostic side appeal to my inner puzzle solver – it’s challenging and fun to piece together what you see on an imaging study to offer a coherent explanation of a patient’s complaints.
  2. The interventional side appeals to my desire to see patients and work with my hands. We also get just the right amount of patient contact – not too much, not too little.
  3. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the great work-life balance most radiologists enjoy. Of course, being a resident, I can only gaze afar at the light at the end of the tunnel, but I doubt that great benefit is going away anytime soon.

Of course, these qualities aren’t exclusive to radiology as a career. Having never done another residency aside from an intern year in internal medicine, I can’t say I wouldn’t be happy in another specialty.  But I feel confident when I say – I can’t see myself any happier in another specialty.

Guest Author Bo Liu, MD is a radiology resident and personal finance enthusiast who enjoys serving up digestible money tips with a focus on topics relevant to young medical professionals – think medical students, residents and fellows.  You can find him at http://futureproofmd.com/

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