How to Become a Radiologist
A radiologist is one of the most important doctors you may never meet. Radiologists are medical doctors who interpret or “read” medical images to diagnose and treat diseases or injuries. Doctors use advanced technology to generate images, including computed tomography (CT) scanning, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear imaging, positron emission tomography (PET), X-rays, and ultrasound. Radiologists use their training to interpret these images, detecting and helping to treat illness, injury, and other chronic problems.
What Does a Radiologist Do?
Radiologists perform a variety of medical services according to their specialty, but most do not take part in the physical placement and scanning of the patient. That work is usually done by a technician. Instead, radiologists direct the action behind the scenes.
There are three basic kinds of radiologists. Diagnostic radiologists decide the type of imaging that should be used and then read the results. These radiology specialists detect tumors, injuries, and other conditions. Surgeons often use images prepared by diagnostic radiologists to plan surgical procedures.
Another type of radiologist is an interventional radiologist. This kind of radiologist is an expert in performing minimally invasive surgeries that use medical imaging. For example, they perform such procedures as angioplasty and stent placement, drainage, embolization, and thrombus management. They generally work on the thorax, abdomen, pelvis, and extremities.
A third kind of radiology is radiation oncology. This kind of radiologist uses ionizing radiation to treat cancer or other diseases. Cancer cells divide frequently, and this makes them vulnerable to damage from radiation. Radiologists know which type of radiation to use and how to target it at cancer cells while reducing the impact on healthy cells.
Whatever the subspecialty, radiology is on the cutting edge of technology. For example, the CT scan has evolved rapidly since its introduction around 1970, and this evolution is set to continue into the future. CT scans were once confined to the head and could last half an hour, with a relatively high radiation dose. Now, CT scans use far less radiation while producing a far sharper image, and in much less time. Becoming a radiologist means a commitment to lifelong learning as the specialty and its technologies continue to develop.
We have answered the question, What does a radiologist do? Now let’s find out how to become a radiologist and answer the question, How long does it take to be a radiologist?
Radiologist Education Requirements
When considering how to become a radiologist, the student must first graduate from an accredited medical school such as American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC)*. The path to a medical degree at AUC, which is located on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, is the same as at United States-based schools: two years of medical science classes and two years of hands-on clinical training. For AUC students, the medical sciences curriculum is completed at the St. Maarten campus; the clinical training can be completed at affiliated teaching hospitals in the United States or in the United Kingdom.
During clinical training, AUC students complete core rotations in internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, family medicine, obstetrics/ gynecology, and psychiatry. Each individual student, then, selects from among dozens of specialty elective clerkships to fulfill their clinical requirements.
During the fourth and final year of medical school, students prepare for the next phase of their medical education: residency. At AUC, the Office of Career Advisement (OCA) helps students determine which residency specialty—such as radiology—suits them best. The OCA then helps students navigate the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®)—a placement system which medical students who wish to become licensed in the United States use to “match” with a medical residency.
In 2021, 92 percent of AUC graduates attained a medical residency on par with the overall match rate (92.8 percent) for medical schools in the United States. In recent years, AUC MD’s have matched with such radiology residency programs as Case Western/ MetroHealth Medical Center in Ohio; Hartford Hospital in Connecticut; the Tulane University School of Medicine in Louisiana; and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
After completing radiologist schooling, a physician may be certified by the American Board of Radiology (ABR). The medical association that represents radiologists is called the Radiology Society of North America (RSNA®).
Radiologists often continue their radiologist education by pursuing a subspecialization fellowship of one to two years. Radiologist schooling may culminate in such subspecialties as:
- Hospice and Palliative Medicine
- Nuclear Radiology
- Pain Medicine
- Pediatric Radiology
- Vascular and Interventional Radiology
Now that you know how to become a radiologist, prepare yourself for the challenge and get all the necessary application materials in place. Then apply for admission to AUC to start your radiologist education.
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*AUC's medical school facilities and curriculum are accredited through 2021 by the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM), which is the accreditor used by the country of St. Maarten.