Urology Resident Finds It’s Never Too Late to Switch to Radiology

Urology Resident Finds It’s Never Too Late to Switch to Radiology

All it took was a little exposure to radiology and Parris Diaz, MD, was beaming. Dr. Diaz, who’s in the intern year of his urology residency, was ready to switch fields. Even at age 30 with an uncertain future ahead, he’s confident that he’s making the right decision.

“You need to be happy in what you’re doing,” said Dr. Diaz, who’s in the urology program at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). “I love the field of urology. It has impacted me in more ways than I can count. It has taught me so much, and I’m so appreciative, but I’m excited to go into radiology and discover this new field that I never knew was going to be the one for me.”

Parris Diaz, MD
Parris Diaz, MD

Dr. Diaz is the first from his family to attend college. His mother is a caregiver and his father works in construction. When he entered UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, he hadn’t settled on a career direction.

“I went into medical school kind of wide-eyed,” he said. “I went to every specialty thinking, ‘This could be it. This could be the one.’ I went in with no expectations and urology was the one that stuck out to me just because of the people. There are amazing individuals in urology and great personalities.”

His first chance to perform a radiology rotation came during his urology residency. His two opportunities to investigate radiology in his third year as a medical student were canceled.

Dr. Diaz’s urology program set up a two-week mini-rotation last December after he told his director that he wanted to change his plans. It gave him the chance to gain experience with abdominal and chest imaging.

“I always thought radiology was interesting, but I just never knew anything about the field,” he said. “It’s one of those fields where if you don’t rotate on it or do it, how do you really know what the life is like?”

Once he got in the reading room, he knew he was in the right place. It wasn’t a dimly lit spot filled with physicians hunched over their computers. It was instead a place that inspired him to pursue an exciting new direction.

“There’s a lot of collegiality there,” he said. “There’s a lot of learning happening. There’s a lot of people calling, asking for help. The interaction that you’re having, physician to physician, is very gratifying. I know it’s something that can make me happy.”

Seeing physicians working across disciplines to determine patient care matched his experience as a urology resident. He often finds himself consulting with diagnostic radiologists.

“I think radiologists have so much knowledge about every other specialty and they have the tools to help consultants inside the hospital, outside the hospital, in every setting,” Dr. Diaz said. “When I don’t know what’s going on, I find myself calling a radiologist and saying, ‘What should we do next? What should we be looking for?’”

Dr. Diaz has secured a spot as a medical resident at UCSF that starts after his urology time ends in June. He’ll re-enter the Match in September.

“I’m excited for more growth as a doctor that I know will only help me as a radiology resident,” he said.

He’ll likely use some of his time to counsel other residents who are thinking about changing their fields, just as he sought and received advice when he plotted his move.

“There aren’t many of us out there, but I am happy to be able to let others know that it’s OK to switch,” Dr. Diaz said. “It’s OK to change your mind. You’re not a quitter. You have to choose what type of life you want … what type of career you want. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.”

Even with at least a year off his residency track, Dr. Diaz is willing to sacrifice time for career satisfaction. His professional life could easily last between 30 and 40 years, so he wants to be happy and fulfilled.

“I know that it isn’t going to be an easy road, but it’s a career that I know that I will really enjoy,” he said.

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