Working with X-rays: A Career in Radiology

Nov 2015

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radiologyRadiology is an exciting and intellectually stimulating specialty that plays an important role in patient diagnosis and management. If you are willing to work hard and be adaptable, it is a very rewarding career and one that some radiologists have described as not just a job but a hobby.

The greatest obstacle to the cure of diseases in India is the limited number of professionals practicing diagnostics. This deficit can cause delayed diagnosis or no diagnosis at all that may lead to ineffective and expensive treatment, and even death.

The disease may also spread to others in the event of inaccurate diagnosis resulting in improper treatment. Hence, there is a dire requirement of qualified professionals in this field, especially in overpopulated and developing countries like India.

Radiology is a hi-tech branch of medical science which helps in diagnosing and treating various diseases, disorders and abnormalities. Thanks to the discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Roentgen in November 1895, radiology has grown immensely, both in its dimensions and capabilities and is now one of the most sought-after postgraduate courses for medical graduates. It is both a diagnostic specialty and an interventional specialty, with direct links to almost every other department in a hospital. It has rapidly advanced in the recent years. Technological innovations and the widespread availability of sophisticated imaging techniques have made the job of radiologists easier.

 

Should you take this up?

Those who enjoy intellectual challenges and solving mind-boggling cases, have an analytical mind and a keen eye for detail can take up radiology as a career. Radiologists are often the first ones to detect new conditions and derive great satisfaction from studying the anatomical, pathological, and clinical details as well as the results of previous imaging procedures to come up with the cause of a patient’s problems.  Radiologists can be either diagnostic or interventional.

Diagnostic radiologists use a variety of imaging techniques such as plain radiographs, ultrasound, and Computed Tomography (CT), to sophisticated techniques such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET), coupled with CT or MRI to answer the clinical question posed by a patient’s condition. Interventional radiologists, on the other hand, have a direct role in managing patients—from performing urgent minimally-invasive procedures and stopping life threatening haemorrhages to undertaking procedures such as oesophageal stenting or angioplasty.

 

An aspirant must take up a combination of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (PCB) in 10+2 and then appear for one of the national or state level medical entrance examinations or that of a private medical college to pursue MBBS. This should be followed by MD/DNB after qualifying one of the postgraduate entrance examinations (conducted by the CBSE or state boards or National Board of Examinations). During MD (Doctor of Medicine)/DNB (Diplomate of National Board), research has to be carried out apart from regular academics, carrying out ward duties and upgrading one’s knowledge. One can then go for a three-year senior residency and/or sub-specialty training, after which s/he can practice as a radiologist. A radiologist can choose to specialize in one or more of the following: Breast, Cardiac, Gastrointestinal, Head and neck, Musculoskeletal, Neuroradiology, Oncological, Paediatric, Radionuclide, Thoracic, Uro-gynaecological, Vascular. Other than MBBS and MD, there are diploma courses as well in Medical Radio-Diagnosis, in which candidates are not given any research thesis and such candidates are not eligible for teaching posts.

radiology

 

Clockwork

A typical day of a radiologist depends on the type of practice s/he does, and whether or not s/he works full-time or part-time:

 6.30 am: Wake up and exercise

8.30 am: Reach hospital

9am to 11am: Conduct ultrasonography of subjects

11 am to 1 pm: Conduct CT scan/other examination of patients

1pm to 2pm: Lunch break

2pm to 5pm: Work continues.

A resident doctor in a government hospital also has to do night duties – two to five in a month - and 24- to 36-hour shifts, depending upon hospital rules. One also does academic work to upgrade one’s knowledge.

 

The Payoff

Earnings are different in government hospitals and private hospitals and clinics.

In an academic hospital: A senior resident (for three years) may get around Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 60,000 per month. An assistant professor can get upwards of Rs. 70,000 per month. An associate professor (takes around eight years), gets Rs. 75,000 per month. A professor earns Rs. 1.5 lakhs per month. In addition to this, they are entitled to a host of other benefits.

In private/corporate hospitals/clinics: An assistant consultant, with an experience of one year can expect a package upwards of Rs. 1.2 lakh per month. A senior consultant with five years’ experience can make around Rs. 3 lakh per month. But if you have your own set-up, you could earn more. Sky may be the limit, literally.

 

Institutes

There are almost 268 medical schools across the country that run radiology courses and out of a total of 35,000 medical students, approximately 747 get to do 3-year postgraduate training in radiology every year. Out of these, 537 seats are under Medical council of India (MCI) and 210 seats under National board of examinations [Diplomate of National board (DNB)], which are two medical governing bodies in India. In addition, there are about 253 2-year diploma course seats known as Diploma in Medical Radio-Diagnosis (DMRD).

 

Fees

Full-time fee in the top ten medical schools in the world, all of which happen to be in USA, is in the range of $30,000-$57,000. The same in medical schools with a lower ranking is much lower.

In India, the fee is negligible in government institutions in comparison to their foreign counterparts. However, the cost of pursuing radiology from private medical colleges may be in the range of Rs. 40 lakhs to 1 crore, or even more.

 

Some institutes in India are:

 

Top Institutes: Overseas

Rank

Institute

Location

URL

1

Harvard Medical School

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

hms.harvard.edu/

3

John Hopkins School of Medicine

Baltimore, Maryland, USA

www.hopkinsmedicine.org/som/

4

Perelman School of Medicine (University of Pennsylvania)

Pennsylvania, USA

www.med.upenn.edu/

5

UW School of Medicine (Seattle)

Washington, USA

www.uwmedicine.org/

6

David Geffen School of Medicine (UCLA)

Los Angeles, California, USA

https://healthsciences.ucla.edu/

7

Michigan Medical School

Michigan, USA

https://medicine.umich.edu/medschool/

8

UNC School of Medicine

North Carolina, USA

https://www.med.unc.edu/

9

Pritzker School of Medicine

Chicago, USA

pritzker.uchicago.edu/

10

UW School of Medicine (St. Louis)

Missouri, USA

https://medicine.wustl.edu/

 

 Pros and Cons

  • Opportunity to be involved with almost all the interesting cases or clinical practices in the hospital.
  • You make a real difference by helping in patient management, monitoring disease progression or helping to diagnose a particularly dangerous ailment to prevent it from spreading or causing further harm to a patient
  • Many interventional radiological procedures are replacing/have replaced many surgical procedures
  • Being able to work with cutting edge and rapidly advancing technology in a booming field
  • Job and career flexibility
  • Not as challenging as surgery

 

Conclusion

An exponential growth of a population that has already crossed one billion points towards the need for better healthcare facilities. Radiology offers immense satisfaction to practitioners for they are the first ones to communicate with patients in distress and pave the way for their treatment. Apart from this, other factors which are enough to lure students are high monetary compensation, less taxing work when compared to other branches of medicine and the absence of emergency calls at odd hours.

 

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