By Alex Diaz, MS3, University of California, San Francisco

As the field of Interventional Radiology (IR) continues to grow, it will be increasingly important that today’s medical students have the opportunity to learn about the specialty during their pre-clinical years. IR’s utility across many fields of medicine ensures that a considerable fraction of future doctors, regardless of chosen specialty, will find themselves working with Interventional Radiologists. Additionally, pre-clinical exposure to the field encourages student interest and helps to ensure a diverse applicant pool.

In 2016, two IR faculty physicians at UCSF, Vishal Kumar and Evan Lehrman, started a 10-week elective course for pre-clinical medical students. The elective, which met once a week, included an introductory lecture, lectures from faculty members practicing different IR sub-specialties, a research lecture, and a hands-on session. In the hands-on session, students had the opportunity to practice deploying stents and embolic agents in model vessels, learn ultrasound guided needle placement techniques, and navigate catheters through models of the celiac vasculature. The sub-specialty lecture series included lectures from Interventional Radiologists specializing in trauma, non-traumatic bleeding, venous interventions, chronic liver disease, abscess drainage, genitourinary interventions, interventional oncology, and women’s interventions. In 2017, the elective was expanded to include a webinar, to provide medical students around the world without access to IR at their institutions an opportunity to learn about the specialty. An average of 30 students tuned in to each webinar and, in total, 29 states and 9 countries were represented amongst the webinar’s 83 registrants.

In 2016, at the elective’s conclusion, a survey meant to gauge UCSF MSI/II perceptions of IR was distributed. Although limited by sample size, statistical analysis showed that MSI/II’s who took the elective were more familiarized with upcoming changes to the IR training pathway and were more likely to perceive support in the field for female and underrepresented minority (URM) physicians. In 2017, survey data was collected both pre- and post-elective. Pre-elective survey data showed that regardless of interest in IR, female UCSF students were less likely than male UCSF students to perceive support in the field for female and URM physicians. Also, pre-elective, most students had negative perceptions regarding occupational radiation exposure. As compared to the pre-elective data, the post-elective data from 2017 showed a statistically significant positive shift in perceived support for women and URM physicians in IR. Post-elective, students were also less deterred by occupational radiation exposure.

These results support the notion that with enough effort from the IR community, student perceptions regarding radiation safety can be changed and barriers to women and URM physicians can be addressed. The results of our study also suggest that the medical school pre-clinical curriculum may be a promising space to have meaningful impact on these issues. Creating positive perceptions early on in medical school helps to ensure a diverse and well-informed applicant pool. Our experience at UCSF strongly suggests that pre-clinical exposure has positive impact on student perceptions of Interventional Radiology.

Are you a medical student interested in learning more about IR?

Consider following the SIR Medical Student Council (MSC) FacebookInstagramTwitter accounts for posts on interesting cases and IR residency updates.

All medical students are also welcome to enroll in the UCSF IR webinar, which begins again in January, and will be advertised via the above social media accounts in connection with the SIR MSC.