As the career path to interventional radiology evolves, so too do the aspects of what may make a competitive candidacy. What was previously a decision about fellowship during the PGY3-4 years can now be a specialty choice made as an MS3 (or earlier). Like other competitive specialties, spending an extra year in the middle of medical school to fully immerse yourself and conduct IR research is an opportunity to strengthen your application and demonstrate to residencies how dedicated you are to the field. Read about the experiences of 3 medical students who are currently in the middle of an IR research year.

You may also find this article from the archives helpful!

Click below to navigate directly to each student’s testimonial:

Nikhil Gowda

Nikhil is taking a research year between his 2nd and 3rd year at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC.

What is your research?
One year of clinical research at Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University Hospital which includes work on:

IGTFusion Trial: Ongoing study validating and setting up clinical trial for an image fusion utility for tumor biopsy and ablations

May-Thurner’s Reading Study: Ongoing study on MRV reading accuracy

PAD Outcomes Study: Retrospective quality assessment between IR and VS

How did you hear about your research?
I reached out to my mentor in the IR department at GWUH who connected me with my current mentor at Children’s National Medical Center, Dr. Karun Sharma.

How did you decide?

I explored the idea very last minute, just before the start of M3. I then read up on the idea of taking a research year on various forums and the current article on the SIR website. While I was interested and had prior interest in research, and was passionate about pursuing IR, I was not so sure about adding an additional year to my training. I was fortunate that my research was funded, which made my decision easier as I otherwise would have struggled to pay rent!

I weighed the following pros and cons:

PROS

• Wanted a research focused career
• Would help highlight my passion towards IR down the line
• Helps build connections and network for future opportunities/residency
• Making sure that IR was the right field for me
• Funding!
• Taking a little break from school

CONS

• No longer graduating with the friends I had made in the first two years of medical school
• Forgetting stuff learned in preclinicals
• Returning with my clinical skills a little rough around the edges
• Possibility of realizing IR wasn’t right for me and having committed to a year off (thankfully the opposite revelation happened)

What are your (ongoing) experiences?
Research experience in setting up a clinical trial (IRB proposals, review process, grant application process), paper writing skills, connecting with mentors at my home institution as well as at Children’s National. I will attend SIR 2020 and give an oral presentation.
As for publications, I had 4 before (non IR related), but will hopefully have at least 2 more that are IR related now.

Was this the right decision?
Yes! Children’s National is a refreshing experience and I am loving exploring the world of pediatric IR, something that I may not have gotten to learn more about otherwise. Additionally, I definitely realized that IR was the right field for me and hopefully set myself up on a good footing for residency applications.

Simone Raiter

Simone is taking a research year between her 2nd and 3rd year at the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago, IL.

What is your research?

One-year translational research at Northwestern University working with my mentor/PI Dr. Samdeep Mouli on two main projects:
• Assessing the safety and feasibility of using Y90 in the prostate (animal model)
• Figuring out the optimal time to give TACE or Y90 in combination with immunotherapy for HCC (animal model)



How did you hear about your research?

I attended the Midwest Interventional Radiology Medical Student Symposium (MIRMSS) last spring. Shortly after, an email was sent out to people who attended advertising for this opportunity.

What helped you decide?

I received the email in May and was scheduled to start rotations in June/July, so I had to make the decision quickly. I ultimately just wrote down the pros and cons:

PROS

• Research is in IR – good for my residency application
• Networking – build connections that will help with future opportunities/residency
• Opportunity to attend other conferences and learn more about the field
• Funded – it’s always nice to get paid!
• Hands-on skills – performing surgeries, cell suspension, antibody staining, flow cytometry, histology, etc.
• Shadowing opportunities – scrub in on cases, attend resident/fellow lectures
• Ultimately determines if IR is the right field for me
• Reputation of the institution
• Nice break from school, especially having just taken Step 1

CONS

• Working with animals
• Delay graduation by 1 year and not graduating with my friends

What are your (ongoing) experiences?
Prior to this year, I had very little experience in research. Since then I have developed a wide variety of skills such as:

• Surgical skills: I have performed a vast number of surgeries, mainly TACE using either an abdominal, femoral, or tail artery approach
• Lab skills: I do a lot of tissue processing such as cell suspension and counting, and antibody staining
• Data analysis: Gathering histopathologic data and running the flow cytometry and analyzing the results.
Conferences – I have attended 5 conferences throughout the country, and have plans to attend at least 3 more before the year is over. I have established a large connection with physicians, program directors (PDs), and other students at these events.
• Academic Interventional Radiology Conference (AIR)
• Annual Chicagoland Radiology Expo
• Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Annual Meeting
• NYC Medical Student Interventional Radiology Symposium
• Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) Annual Meeting
• Annual Medical Education Conference (AMEC) – upcoming
• American College of Radiology (ACR) Annual Meeting – upcoming
• New Cardiovascular Horizons (NCVH) Annual Conference – upcoming

Connections within the institution – I have gotten to know the residents, fellows, physicians, and PDs in both the diagnostic and interventional radiology programs at Northwestern.
Publications – Prior to this year I had no publications. At the end of this year I will come out with at least 6 papers from my two main projects, clinical projects, and assisted projects.
Abstracts/Presentations – I have submitted abstracts to upcoming conferences in which I will be able to present my work from this year.
Miscellaneous – Free time to enjoy life! I got to go on vacations, hang out with friends, and start back up on my hobbies again. I was able work on several projects and tasks for the RFS-MSC and get my sub-committee (Diversity Outreach – IRIG Committee) started on its projects for the year.

Was taking a research year the right decision?
ABSOLUTELY!! I came into this job with no prior experience and not a strong interest in research, but now I see it in a whole new light and hope to incorporate it into my future career. I have learned a substantial amount this year not only about IR as a field, but developing a large skill set in research that I previously did not have. This year allowed me to figure out if this is truly the right field for me – and the answer is yes. I have absolutely no regrets about my decision to take a research year. I strongly believe that I could not have created the same knowledge and experiences in IR and research had I not taken the leap. If you are thinking about taking a research but not sure if it is worth it, my advice is to write down the pros and cons and weigh them based on what is most important to you. However, I will say that taking a research year will definitely not hurt you when it comes to applying for residency!

Siddhant Thukral

Siddhant is taking a research year between his 5th and 6th year of the 6-year, integrated BA/MD program at the University University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Medicine in Kansas City, MO. His research is part of the TL1 Predoctoral Training Program at Washington University in St. Louis with Dr. Suresh Vedantham as his primary mentor.

What is your research?
One year of clinical research at Washington University in St. Louis which includes work on:
ATTRACT (Acute Venous Thrombosis: Thrombus Removal with Adjunctive Catheter-Directed Thrombolysis) NIH sponsored, multicenter, randomized control trial – post-hoc analysis of completed clinical trial
C-TRACT (Chronic Venous Thrombosis: Relief with Adjunctive Catheter-Directed Therapy) NIH sponsored, multicenter, randomized control trial – active engagement in on-going clinical trial

How did you hear about your research?
I first heard about the TL1/MSCI program at Washington University through a school wide email at my home institution (University of Missouri – Kansas City).

How did you decide?
This was a well thought out decision for me, but it wasn’t easy. There are a lot of factors that go into taking a research year. Nevertheless, I decided pretty early. Applications for my program were due Feb 20th so I reached out to my mentor around November.

PROS

• IR is an innovative field- research helps you be a part of that innovation 
• Follow your research passions full time
• Mentorship
• Get to learn new skills 
• Expand your professional network 
• Take a break from medical school 
• Confirm you have chosen the right specialty 
• Boost your resume  

CONS

• Delay graduation by 1 year
• May or may not be compensated (NIH- funded programs such as TL1/MSCI are typically compensated though- thankfully) 
• May need to relocate… then relocate back (if research is not at your home institution)
• Improve certain clinical skills but will definitely forget a lot of smaller details typically tested on board exams

What are your (ongoing) experiences?

Research – Full time research in a clinical science lab, interacting with professionals from diverse backgrounds (physicians, nurses, project managers, clinical trial coordinators, statisticians, residents, fellows). Also grant and paper writing.

Student – Full time student in the Master of Science in Clinical Research (MSCI) program. Example coursework includes: Analysis of Clinical Data, Designing Outcomes and Clinical Research, Introductory and Intermediate Statistics, Scientific Writing and Publishing, and Ethical Legal Issues in Clinical Research.

Certificate – An online curriculum in Entrepreneurship for Biomedicine Program (E4B) – nine nanocourses including Introduction to the World of Biomedical Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Survive and Thrive as an Innovator, Identifying Opportunities for Innovator, Building Effective Teams, Diversity and Inclusion in Innovation & Entrepreneur, Validating your Innovation, Fishing for Customers, Ethics in Biomedicine Innovation, Selling your Innovation

Conferences – Will attend 3 conferences throughout the year (American Venous Forum (AVF), Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) Annual Meeting, Translational Science 2020)

Publications – I had 3 publications (2 basic science and 1 case report) prior to research year – none in interventional radiology. I will have at least 2 first author publications in IR after this year

Clinical Exposure – In addition to observing multiple IR procedures, I regularly attend IR clinic days with my mentor

Connections within the institution – During my year off, I made numerous meaningful connections with medical students, staff members, nurses, residents, fellows, and attendings at Wash U. The residents and fellow were extremely easy to converse with, and, in addition to helping me understand complex cases and procedures, frequently shared their insights about IR. Additionally, I was welcomed to the ORs anytime and, to the faculty’s great credit, I experienced first-hand how they always made time for teaching and engagement, despite how busy their day was. With IR being such a tight-knit community, I not only feel like I established an invaluable core mentor-mentee relationship to advance my career and knowledge of IR, but also created life long working relationships that I can turn to anytime in the future.

SIR-RFS – I have directly contributed to several projects for the RFS-MSC, and have been appointed Chair of MSC Reserves, helping interested medical students get involved with various RFS-MSC subcommittees: Education, Diversity and Innovation, IRIG, etc.

Was this the right decision?
YES! Clinical research requires its own unique skill set and level of understanding. When starting my research year, I knew very little about research methodology and how to design a good clinical trial or research study. While I obviously have a long way to go, this formal research experience, combined with structured coursework on the subject, has definitely provided me with a strong foundation from which I hope to continue to grow.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of my research experience was being able to closely observe the day-to-day operations of an ongoing large, multicenter, NIH-funded clinical trial (C-TRACT) and the mentorship which came from the experience. Whenever I had any questions, I was able to address them directly with my mentor who gracefully shared his experiences and insight. Considering all that I have learned this year, I am unsure of any other avenues where a trainee could hope to gain such exposure.


Finally, soon after discovering the field of IR, I was hooked. What truly drew me to the field was its innovative spirit and diversity of cases. However, with innovation comes the irrefutable need to be informed and knowledgeable about the evidence backing that innovation. After this year, I feel much more confident in my abilities to distinguish between high-quality evidence and lower-quality evidence thereby, directly influencing the quality of care I hope to give my patients as a future Interventional Radiologist.

Previously updated on 4/9/20