By Emily Van Antwerp
At the beginning of my third-year clerkships, I was undecided about which specialty to pursue for my career. My mother-in-law, an MRI technologist, suggested I shadow physicians at her clinic. Radiology quickly captured my interest. For the remainder of the semester, I devoted my free time to shadowing and learning from the radiologists at my base hospital. Whether they were teaching me their search patterns for reading chest x-rays or performing a vertebroplasty, I consistently admired their work and was in awe of their wealth of knowledge and clinical aptitude. Without hesitation, I switched my spring elective to radiology and became even more passionate about this specialty.
My radiology rotation exposed me to the many facets of the field. I met an enthusiastic group of radiologists at a rural hospital in Martinsburg, West Virginia, who provided me the fundamental knowledge to interpret multiple imaging modalities. I discovered that radiology entails a vast understanding of many distinct pathologies and requires exquisite thoroughness and attention to detail. Any small error or missed impression can lead to a cascade of undesired events. As such, radiologists must be systematic and detailed in their approach. Every image read is a paramount event, and knowing that one scan has a ripple effect that could change the course of a person’s treatment, prognosis, and life is a major reason why I admire this field. As someone always looking for a way to make a direct clinical impact, I value the gratification of providing guidance and, in many cases, reassurance, through the interpretation of an image.
During my rotation, I discovered that radiology is a constantly evolving field with an emphasis on improving patient care. Radiology also has a major focus on preventive care, which represents a pillar of my career plans. On multiple encounters, I felt a passionate purpose, such as while reading a mammography screening for breast cancer or a low-dose CT scan for lung cancer. I saw a patient with a ventral hernia causing distortion of his colon, which prevented him from undergoing a traditional colonoscopy. As a result, this patient underwent a virtual colonoscopy, also called a CT colonography, as a less invasive measure for appropriate colon cancer screening. Fortunately, this method was available because of advancements in radiology.
My decision to pursue radiology was further solidified during my hematology-oncology rotation, where I learned that most patient care was directed primarily by the patient’s most recent imaging scans. During the hospital-wide tumor board, I observed the impact of radiologists and radiologic oncologists as they led the discussion for each patient, made recommendations, and laid the foundation for the treatment plan. I was excited to learn the central role the radiologist plays among the multidisciplinary team in the diagnosis and even treatment plan of each oncology patient. Drawn to radiology in every setting, I found opportunities during other rotations, such as internal medicine and obstetrics and gynecology, to look at the relevant images and challenge myself to formulate a correct interpretation before reading the radiologist’s official report. These experiences showed me that radiology is a field that impacts every specialty. As a student and an athlete, I’ve always enjoyed both team collaboration and leadership roles. I look forward to collaborating with other specialties to ensure that radiology is at the forefront of patient care and to optimize its clinical impact.
Breast cancer runs deep in my family; I have lost many loved ones to this horrible disease. For this reason, my mother and many other relatives undergo biannual breast screening. As such, my ultimate goal is to complete my radiology residency and follow in a breast imaging fellowship if granted the opportunity.
Emily Van Antwerp is a fourth-year medical student at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. She grew up near Boston and received her bachelor’s degree in biology at The Ohio State University. A member of the Society of Interventional Radiology Medical Student Reserves who participates on the innovations committee, she is applying for a diagnostic radiology residency. Her hobbies include running marathons, cooking healthy foods, and being a dog mom to an adorable Shorkie named Harley. You can follow her on Twitter @VanantwerpEmily and Instagram at emvanantwerp.