Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What Is A Radiologist?

A diagnostic radiologist is a doctor (licensed M.D.) who uses images acquired through various modalities to help make medical decisions. Radiologists require a lot of training. To become a radiologist in the United States, one must complete secondary education, an undergraduate degree, four years of medical school, an internship, and residency training. Many radiologists also receive training within a subspecialty of radiology through a one year fellowship after the diagnostic radiology residency. Major subspecialties in radiology include neuroradiology, mammography, body CT, musculoskeletal imaging, and interventional radiology. Along with the training, radiologists must pass several board exams from the American Board of Radiology (ABR) during their residency training. 

Once fully certified, a diagnostic radiologist can work in a variety of medical settings. The two major practice settings are academic radiology and private practice radiology. Private practices usually involve several radiologists who either run an independent diagnostic imaging center or contract with a hospital to provide their services.

Academic radiologists are associated with medical schools and their teaching hospitals. They are more involved in training radiologists and performing academic research. Academic radiologists typically receive lower pay, but work fewer hours. The diagnostic radiologists within academia report being more satisfied with their job as well, relative to their private practice peers, in surveys of practicing radiologists. 

Most physicians trained as diagnostic radiologists interpret films. The radiologist then makes an interpretation of the film and provides their assessment to the physician who ordered the film. The assessment can involve making the diagnosis, discussing treatment options, or judging how effective a treatment has been. Interventional radiologists train as diagnostic radiologists during residency, but after their fellowship, they perform procedures primarily. Contrary to stereotypes, radiologists often interact with many physicians, providing much appreciated advice on how to proceed with patient care. Radiologists are also often at the front lines of screening initiatives, such as encouraging women to get mammograms. 

Related fields to diagnostic radiology are radiation oncology and radiology technology. However, radiation oncologists receive separate residency training and are more heavily involved in patient care. Radiology technologists or x ray technicians assist diagnostic radiologists in acquiring images. They receive their training in separate radiology technology schools, where upon completion, they typically receive an associate's degree.