Author: Gregg Khodorov, MBA 

MS4, Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

You’re fresh off your preclinical years, and you’re finally getting the hang for clinical medicine. Maybe you’re checking up on a post-surgical patient with an abscess that needs drainage…or maybe you’re following a patient who needs a chemotherapy port placed. You’re not sure what to recommend when it comes time to present your plan, and suddenly, you hear it for the first time: “IR Consult”. You sit there, making a mental note to google “IR” when you get a chance, and suddenly, maybe without your noticing, your entire life trajectory changes. 

You start researching, asking around, maybe even shadow for a week or two, and the next thing you know, you can’t see yourself pursuing any other field in medicine. You ask around; apparently one of your classmates has known that they’ve wanted to pursue IR since middle school, and has 3 first-author publications, two SIR research awards, and is currently working on a patent for a new catheter in their spare time. And just like that, before ever setting foot into the career of your dreams, you’ve fallen so far behind that it feels like no matter what you do, you’ll never get a fighting chance. 

Stop me if this is beginning to sound like you…

It’s no secret that Interventional Radiology has become the most competitive subspecialty in medicine. With a match rate shy of 60%, it’s no wonder students are attempting to find IR experiences earlier and earlier in their medical careers. 

This article is for the late discoverers–the ones who maybe are the first physician-to-be in their family. Or who maybe didn’t get exposure to IR through an interest group, preclinical lecture, or mentor. I want you to know that you’re not too late–there is space for you in this field, and you deserve to be here just as much as the student who has always known that IR is right for them. 

IR is a field reliant on agility and quick problem solving-–this piece covers some quick and effective ways to boost your application and experience level in order to make sure that you are right for this field, and that the field is right for you.

1. Start an IR Interest Group at your school. 

If a Radiology or Diagnostic Radiology Interest Group already exists, consider joining forces with them to co-promote events and speakers. If an IR Interest Group is already established (check here for an exhaustive list), offer a helping hand; consider taking on a Senior Advisor role in which you can help connect preclinical medical students with faculty. As a student in your clinical years, all it takes is a walk down the hallway to Interventional Radiology (aka Special Procedures at some hospitals) and introducing yourself to find faculty or resident speakers to present at IRIG. A step-by-step guide for setting up an IRIG can be found here.

2. Join SIR’s Resident, Fellow and Student Section, and become an active contributor. 

If the RFS Medical Student Council application cycle has passed, consider joining the Medical Student Reserves. Say yes to any projects thrown your way, and in a matter of time, you’ll find yourself favorably positioned to get involved with the Medical Student Council. This is a great way to stay in the know on the latest that SIR has to offer, and also to help increase awareness to your school’s more junior students who may be similarly underexposed to IR as you once were.

3. Attend a conference. Even if you’re not presenting.

Conferences can be expensive, especially when your medical school does not subsidize your attendance cost. SIR’s annual conference is free for medical students, and there are even student travel scholarships. Even if you don’t end up being awarded a scholarship, consider the travel cost lumped in with the costs of interviewing for residency–it’ll be well worth the trip if you can make it out, even for a day or two. If you have some research to present, you can apply for a scholarship for that, too.

If the cost is too prohibitive, no worries. There are always local events you can attend, which are also usually cheap or free for medical students. Check with local IR societies, and check here for SIR-copromoted events in your area. This is a great way to express your interest to program directors from local and national residency programs, network with a group of your peers who can help direct your efforts, and also begin to understand if IR is truly right for you. Moreover, learning about the cutting edge of IR research can help you ask more thoughtful questions when you inevitably…

4. Set up a home rotation (if you have one).

Most matched IR/DR residents will recommend at least 2 weeks, and if possible up to 4 weeks of IR at your home institution. This will allow the faculty to get to know you, mentor you, and teach you the basics of IR. Ask thoughtful questions, be present, and try to learn as much as you can, because the goal is to have a firm grasp of IR basics before you…

5. Set up (at least) one away rotation.

There is no substitute for a month of face time, no substitute for a month-long commitment of your time to an institution, and certainly no substitute for showing the faculty and residents at an away program that you’re capable of fitting in, helping out, and being curious prior to even starting your residency training. To find out more about away rotations, read this article.

6. Don’t fret.

It’s not too late for you. Ask around–you’ll find a mixed bag of matched residents pursuing IR–students who always knew they wanted IR, students who discovered IR in their fourth year of medical school, and everything in between. Even if you discover or decide on IR after the match, there is space for you in this field. Multiple pathways to IR training allow for flexibility and discovery at every stage of training. All you can do is set yourself up for success once you know it’s right for you. Stay humble and hungry, and opportunities to get involved will present themselves to you in no time at all. Reach out and rely on those with more experience to mentor you through this transitional period in your training. For more on residency applications, away rotations, and everything IR, check out this page.

Last updated 9/10/19