By Samantha Scott
When I envisioned my first year of medical school, I thought a big portion would take place in an anatomy lab. I imagined spending hours dissecting cadavers with classmates, referencing anatomy books, and learning the roadmap of the human body. Due to COVID-19, my anatomy lab was truncated to prevent students from contracting the virus. I was still able to experience anatomy lab, although in a different way: We rotated through cadavers, spending 15 minutes with each one, and our professors had dissected and labeled landmarks for us ahead of time. To my surprise, my favorite station was the large screen with the CT or MR images of real patients’ anatomy and injuries we could scroll through.
We started simply, with a physician explaining that left was right and right was left, and that we were looking at the patient from the feet up. From there, physicians from different specialties would come in depending on the unit we were in and explain the relevant cases. I remember my classmates and me wondering what that bright long tube was in an abdominal CT scan of a patient with car crash injuries; nothing more serious than a catheter! I found my learning was greatly enriched by being able to connect the physical cadaver anatomy we had just seen to radiological images used for diagnosis and treatment planning.
One of my favorite anatomy lab days was when a general surgeon came in and showed us images from a patient she was working on. It was a man who had terrible crush injuries from a car accident, and she had to decide how to operate on him. It was fascinating how much the imaging and radiologist’s report guided her treatment plan and decision making, and it sparked my interest in radiology. I realized how critical radiologists are to the treatment of patients across all specialties, and how much I enjoyed looking at images to identify patterns and make diagnoses.
As soon as shadowing was allowed at my hospital, I reached out to the radiology department and asked to spend time in the reading room. I loved the environment of residents discussing the interesting cases they had seen overnight. I sat with a radiologist who explained his search pattern to me. He then gave me his template and a computer of my own so I could try my hand at reading. While for the most part I felt pretty lost, it was exciting when I could use the anatomy I had learned last year to figure out where I was in the abdomen. I even made incidental findings in the spine!
My early experiences in radiology exposed me to a field I had never considered before starting medical school. Since then, I have realized that radiology offers many of the attributes I am looking for in a medical career. It is interdisciplinary, intellectual, constantly evolving, and critical for patient care. I look forward to further exploring my interest in radiology and discovering how it is used in all aspects of patient care on my rotations next year!
Samantha Scott is a second-year medical student at Albany Medical College. She grew up in Rochester, New York, and earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at Washington University in Saint Louis. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and skiing in the Adirondack Mountains, and she is an aspiring Adirondack 46er. She also enjoys cooking, playing her flute, and spending time with her two cats, Achilles and Artemis. You can follow her on Twitter @SScott2024.