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Interested in radiology as a career? Planning to make the best of an upcoming elective? This page may help you to a better start.

Radiologist exams: what to ask for, when…

It is vital that you realize that as a medical student and a future clinician, the most important knowledge to be gained during undergraduate radiology training is to be familiar with indications of various imaging modalities in different clinical scenarios. Requesting the wrong radiological study is one of the most common errors radiologists face from their referring clinicians.

In order to understand the role of different imaging modalities in management of various clinical scenarios, you should familiarize yourself with a very powerful online tool: The ACR Appropriateness Criteria®. The ACR Appropriateness Criteria® are evidence-based guidelines to assist referring physicians and other providers in making the most appropriate imaging or treatment decision. By employing these guidelines, providers enhance quality of care and contribute to the most efficacious use of radiology.

Use the link above to search for the imaging options for work-up of various clinical conditions: use the link above and search for “Appendicitis” and see the results. Then try a few other common modalities such as diverticulitis, stroke and pulmonary embolism. You can even search for less specific symptoms such as “chest pain”, and follow the algorithm to explore the great clinical value of this tool.

Learning and knowing how to use the ACR Appropriateness Criteria® will certainly help you to be a better clinician in order to optimize and expedite radiological work-up of your patients, and enhance their clinical care through efficient use of medical imaging.

Reading material

It is highly likely that you receive a list of books as a part of your radiology elective orientation documents. These classic, highly acclaimed books are almost always among the “recommended reads”.

However, it is important to consider that these are literally radiology “textbooks” for medical students, and some may find it difficult to go through one or more of these books in one and even two rotations. A few less voluminous reads that can be tackled within a few hours each are also to be considered for the less avid readers, with consistently great results:

Clinical Radiology Made Ridiculously Simple, 2nd ed. by H. Ouellette (109 pages)

Finally, a few general tips:

1.    Avoid reading review books that are popular with radiology residents. What a medical student needs is a basic understanding of principles of image formation and interpretation, as well as familiarity with a few dozen common and significant radiological pathologies.

2.    It is all too common to see the medical students hunched over their textbooks in the corner of the reading room. Leave the reading for the library and home. Spend your time in the department training your eyes by looking at as many studies as you possibly can, even if there is no one around to review with. Most radiology departments have valuable teaching file collections. In addition to learning the principles of image interpretation, also spend time to understand the dynamics of interaction between radiologists and their referring physicians, especially the emergency room. Find out what aspects of clinical information is most vital to scheduling, protocoling and interpreting the radiology exams. There is always something to do in today’s busy academic radiology departments; the more you learn about the practice of radiology, the more fitful your future collaboration with your consultant radiologist will be.

Online radiology resources for medical students

The extent of online resources for learning radiology is overwhelming: too many to be manageable by anyone in any level of radiology career. features a popular list of radiology education resources. However, for a medical student, a selective approach to high yield and relevant material is needed to avoid confusion and frustration. The following two sites contain teaching material, tailored to medical students, and will be more than enough to satisfy the needs of any medical student in his/her first two radiology electives:

Learning Radiology  (A good start)
Radiology Assistant