Category Archive: Radiology

Spotlight Interviews: What is a Transitional Year Residency?


A Transitional Year Resident's Perspective: An interview with a transitional year resident from the Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Part of an interview series entitled, "Specialty Spotlights", which asks medical students' most burning questions to physicians of every specialty. See what doctors from every specialty had to say about why they chose their specialty and how to match in their residency.


  • What is a transitional year residency?

Transitional Year (TY) residencies might be the least well known residency option after medical school. The TY is a one year residency with a general focus which prepares recent graduates for advanced residencies. To understand where a TY fits in, you must understand that there are a number of residency programs that do not start specialty training until the 2nd year after medical school graduation (i.e. PGY2). These specialties include anesthesia, dermatology, neurology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, radiology, radiation oncology, and ophthalmology.

Each of these residencies begin their specialty training after a resident's intern year. Many of these residency programs will combine the intern year (PGY1) with the advanced specialty training. In these cases, the resident will remain in the same residency throughout their training and there is no need to complete a transition year residency. However, there are programs in each of these specialties that do not start training their residents until the second year after medical school (PGY2). These programs require their residents to complete an approved intern year prior to beginning specialty training. Approved intern years include a year of preliminary medicine, preliminary surgery, preliminary pediatrics, or a transitional year residency.


  • How is a transitional year residency different from other intern years?

The goals of training are basically the same among all intern years; we all learn hospital based patient care. Surgical interns take care of patients before and after surgery in the hospital, medicine interns take care of medical patients in the hospital, pediatric interns take care of kids in the hospital. A transitional year resident will take care of all of the above. The transitional year aims to be a broad hospital-based training. TY residents will spend various months working on medicine, surgical, OB, pediatric, outpatient, ED, ICU, and elective rotations. The great asset of a TY is that it provides more flexibility, allowing residents to focus on their interests. I am interested in research and was able to complete two months of intense research during my intern year: something no one from an internal medicine, surgery, or any other residency could say.


  • Are Transitional Year Residencies easy?

Not all TYs are made equally. It is a well known fact that there are some pretty cush TY residencies out there. However, there are also some very difficult TYs. To illustrate this fact, last year I interviewed at a number of TY residencies of varying difficulties. The easiest one had 4 required inpatient months, one outpatient month, one ED month, and 6 electives. Sign out during inpatient months was 3pm. When you were in the ICU you covered 2-3 patients, and you were NEVER on call the entire year. In contrast, I interviewed at a big hospital TY where there were two MICU months where you covered 15 patients, 6 required inpatient medicine months, 2 surgery months, a busy ED month, terrible call, and three 'electives' which were all time consuming. In general, however, the answer to this question is yes. Transitional years are FAR easier than prelim surg residencies and quite a bit easier than prelim medicine residencies as well.


  • Is the training as good at a Transitional Year Residency?

Absolutely, if you choose the right place. Many months this year I have more free time than I did in medical school. I have found that with the free time I am actually reading and studying a ton. I think that you MUST take call to learn how to be a doctor during your intern year. I am not sure how you can become a 'well trained' doctor if you never take call during your intern year. Being on call at night is when you really have to make decisions and you really learn a ton. You don't need 11 months of inpatient work to become a great radiologist or a great ophthalmologist. However, 6 solid months of medicine/surgery will certainly prepare you for your next level of training. Then you can spend the other half of the year becoming great at something else: research, pediatrics, surgery, golf, sleeping, etc etc


  • Describe a typical transitional year schedule?

Everyone must do: 1 month in the ICU, 1 month ED, 1 month outpatient, 2 months general medicine. I believe the rest is up to the residency program. Most programs end up giving 3-5 months of electives.


  • What are the potential downsides of a Transitional Year?

Not many! More free time, less stress, more fun…what's not to like. I guess one downside is that it closes some doors if you choose to switch specialties. For example, if you were doing a preliminary medicine year at an academic center and decided you wanted to do medicine instead of anesthesia, the switch would be easier. After completing a TY year you can only go into the specialties I listed above.


  • How competitive is the Transitional Year match?

It is actually very competitive. There are not many spots, and they are all coveted because they represent less work, more free time, more electives, and a much easier year. Also, imagine all the applicants trying to get spots: future radiologists, ophthalmologists, radiation oncologists, dermatologists. This is not a list of ordinary applicants. Matching into a TY is about as hard as matching into radiology or ophthalmology.


  • What are residencies looking for in a Transitional Year applicant?

I asked my TY program director this exact question and this was his response: "We know we will only have you for one year. However, during that year the TY class will take care of about 50% of all the patients in this hospital. So, it is in the hospitals best interest to have someone who 1- will work hard without being asked, and 2- will maintain the great patient care that we have at the hospital." I think those two things are exactly what all programs want. I think item #2 may touch on competency a little bit, but is mostly referring to your interpersonal skills.


  • What should students look for in a Transitional Year residency?

Whatever you want to look for in a TY year. That sounds cliche, but as I said above, not all TYs are made equally. Do you want a chill year at the risk of missing out on training? You can find that. Do you want to do pediatrics as well as medicine and surgery? You can find that.


  • Is there anything you wish you knew before application season?

I interviewed at a few places that had both TY years as well as preliminary medicine years but the curriculum was exactly the same. In other words, if you match into the preliminary medicine year, you still have the flexibility that the TY residents at the same program have. All of these programs will let you apply to both the TY and the prelim med year after your single interview. These are great programs to find because even though there is no difference at all in the curriculum, the preliminary medicine years are a bit easier to get into.


  • What other advice to you have for students applying to a Transitional Year?

Good luck, intern year is exhilarating, fantastically rewarding, difficult, and very very short. Enjoy it. Read The House of God (amazon link), there is no better time than intern year. Also, watch the first season of Scrubs where the characters are interns…it is incredibly realistic!



Editor's Note: Applying for residency or preparing for your interviews? I highly recommend First Aid for the Match, The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match, and The Residency Interview: How To Make the Best Possible Impression .


Radiology: “Don’t Choose Something You Hate”

A Radiology Resident’s Perspective: An interview with a radiology resident who has asked to remain completely anonymous for reasons you may soon understand.

Part of an interview series entitled, “Specialty Spotlights“, which asks medical students’ most burning questions to physicians of every specialty.  See what doctors from every specialty had to say about why they chose their specialty and how to match in their residency.


  • What attracted you to Radiology?

The money.  Choosing a specialty for its salary is considered an anathema in the medical community.  Because the discussion of salary is taboo, many medical students have taken to talking about a specialty’s “lifestyle.”  In reality, lifestyle and salary/work ratio are near synonymous.  With the notable exceptions of radiation oncology and dermatology, radiology is unquestionably at the top of the heap.  Factoring in vacation, hours, and salary the average private practice (PP) radiologist made nearly twice as much per hour as a general surgeon.  If you are going to sacrifice your youth to medical education then you should be lucratively rewarded.

As I learned more about radiology, I realized that the specialty has all sorts of unique advantages.  Without a patient base, a radiologist is free to move about the country at will.  They can work from home or from anywhere in the world with teleradiology.  This mobility, free of the fetter of patient care, continues to drive radiologist’s salaries higher. Radiologists tend to practice longer than any other specialty (except pathology) presumably due to the relaxed work environment.  However many radiologists retire early, which is silly because radiology differs little from retirement.

When I began my clinical rotations, I made a very important and life altering discovery.  Clinical medicine sucks.  I hated the whole experience.  I agonized at having to pick between such awful choices.  People kept telling me, “Just do what you love!”  I have different advice, “Don’t do what you hate!”  Radiology is unique in that we have an integral role in patient care without having to be dragged into any of patient care’s unpleasantries.  I am no longer screamed at by patients at 2 am because they think nexium is causing back pain.  I no longer have to hold a screaming child for a shot or calm down a sundowning gomer.  If you have the opportunity to save lives from a distance, I highly recommend it.


While the lifestyle is enviable, radiology is anything but easy.  Radiology is an intellectually rigorous specialty that encompasses the entire breadth of medicine.  The training requires extensive study of anatomy, pathology, physics, and treatment.  In emergencies, films must be read quickly and accurately.  Entire medical treatment plans are sometimes based on a radiologist’s dictation.  Medical imaging continues to be at the forefront of modern medicine. Technology advances rapidly and a radiologist should expect to spend most of his or her career keeping up with current technology.


  • Describe a Radiologist’s typical work day?

The typical radiologist comes to work and reads films in the dark for the majority of the day.  The work day in punctuated by phone calls, administrative responsibilities, and procedures (thoracenteses, liver biopsies, chest tubes, barium swallows, etc.).  Contrary to popular belief, these procedures are performed by general radiologists with no special “interventional” training.


The Radiologist’s Dilemma: This radiologist can’t decide which LED TV to buy. A common problem…

  • What type of lifestyle can a Radiologist expect?  

Based on information on the ACR website, job postings, and anecdotal experience the average radiologist works about 50 hours a week.  Generally this is a 7am-4pm M-F with one short call until 9pm and 1-2 weekend days per month.  Work schedules are flexible.  It is also possible to rearrange the work schedule in many different ways with your partners.  Our work schedule isn’t tied to patient management so we can divide it anyway we wish.  PP radiologists average 10 weeks of vacation per year, a figure that makes teachers envious.

  • What is the average salary of a Radiologist?

Based on the most recent Merrit Hawkins salary scan the average radiologist makes $417,000(1).  Andrew has compiled the entire source of physician salary data into one easily searchable article.  The Ultimate Guide to Physician Salaries. I highly recommend it.


  • What is the job market like for Radiology?

The job market is somewhat tight at the moment, though this is not unique to radiology.


  • What are the potential downsides of Radiology that students should be aware of?

My specialty is perfect.


  • What else would you tell medical students who are considering Radiology?

Don’t do what you hate.  Kill the boards and standardized tests.  Keep your options open.


  • How competitive is the Radiology match?

Radiology is a very competitive specialty.  The average USMLE STEP 1 is 240(2).  26% of successfully graduates are inducted into AOA.  Most have some research.  Luckily, radiology is a surprising large specialty.  With nearly 1000 positions per year, there are plenty of spots to go around.  More residency positions are created every year.  For this reason, radiology is less competitive than dermatology, radiation oncology, plastic surgery, orthopedics, otolaryngology, or ophthalmology.  Clinicians actively try to dissuade medical students from going into radiology.


  • What are residencies looking for in a Radiology applicant?

Personality, 3rd year grades, board scores, research.  In that order.


  • What else would you tell medical students who are considering Radiology?

I wish I knew how fat I would get on pre-interview dinners.  Radiology interviews are great.  If I could do it again, I would.


  • What should students look for in a Radiology residency?
  1. A balance of case volume and teaching:  There are “work” residencies and “study” residencies.  “Work” residencies focus on learning to read films and dictate efficiently but can lack structured educational activities such as lectures and research.  If case volume is too high, you may be trained to be a transcriptionist instead of a radiologist.  On the other hand, at certain programs the residents are underworked and spend a large portion of their day studying and researching.  While these residencies sound cushy, it is embarrassing for residents to have to fight each other for cases.  One should look for a program where the residents do not have to compete with fellows for films/cases.
  2. “View-box” teaching:  The ideal situation is that the resident reads a film independently, checks out with the attending who teaches and answers questions, and then the resident dictates a report.  The suboptimal way is that the resident types a brief preliminary report which is later finalized by an attending with no face-to-face contact.  (Though the latter situation is appropriate for senior residents reading basic films.)
  3. Modern Equipment:  Radiology is a rapidly changing field.  Don’t be behind in the technology before you even start!
  4. Residents and Faculty:  Go someplace where you will fit in and feel comfortable.
  5. Facilities:  Palace or dump?
  6. Food:  You are what you eat.
  7. Fitness:  For something to do with all your free time.


  • What other advice do you have for students applying to Radiology?

I met an old southern radiologist when I was a medical student.  He looked like a colonel in the Civil War.  Grizzled and wizened, he looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Son, what is it ya wanna do with yo life?”

“Radiology, sir.”

He said, ”Well that shows remawkable judgment and good sense.”

You are choosing a career for LIFE.  Choose a specialty that you will enjoy when you’re 64.  Most people have the same specialty longer than they are married.  Treat your specialty choice with the same careful consideration as you would with any major life decision.  Or don’t, and go into ER.  What do I care?  Peace.



Physicians from all specialties frequently switch to radiology after realizing their mistake

  1. Radiology is going to be Outsourced! – A favorite MYTH of surgeons, foreign doctors, and the ignorant.  First and foremost, as long as radiology is considered to be medical practice, then it will require aUS medical license.  Credentialing is increasingly difficult and the notion that any hospital would credential an unknown inRanipet,India is absurd.  Second, general radiologists now perform far too many procedures to not have a physical presence at a hospital.  And third, there is no way to sue that physician in Ranipet.
  2. Radiology doesn’t have enough patient contact  – MYTH.  Radiology has as much patient contact as you want.  At any time, I can put down my mocha latte and go talk to my patients.  I don’t, but I could.  Radiology requires a one year internship that is designed to shatter any delusions medical students still have about patient contact.
  3. Radiology has turf wars with other specialties.  – This is FACT, but it is not unique to radiology.  The most notable radiology turf war is with cardiologists over cardiac imaging.  Clinicians reading their own films is grossly inappropriate.  Clinicians are 4 times more likely to order a film if they are reading it themselves3.  Beyond the unscrupulous avarice, the radiation from unnecessary studies causes direct harm to patients.
  4. Radiologists sit in the dark all dayFACT, but there is nothing stopping me from turning the lights on while I read films.


Editor's Note: For more help choosing a specialty in medicine, I highly recommend one these great books about choosing a specialty. If you have already decided on radiology, I recommend the First Aid for the Match to help you get ready for interviews.


Physician Satisfaction by Specialty

The most recent installment of the Medscape Physician Compensation Report was recently published. Along with some of the best information on the web about physician salaries by specialty, the new Medscape report also reports which specialties are the most satisfied with their jobs (click here to view the entire Medscape Report). The results may surprise you. There is no correlation with salary and satisfaction.  The highest paid specialties (orthopedics and anesthesia for example) are found in the middle of the list while pediatrics, ID/HIV, and pathology are all found at the top of the list.  Interestingly, plastic surgery is–by far–the least satisfying specialty. So, the most competitive specialty is by far the least satisfying…that’s odd!


From the 2012 Medscape Compensation Report


My conclusions from the Physician Satisfaction Survey:

  1. The age old adage is correct: Money does NOT buy happiness.
  2. Just because a specialty is desirable to match into does not mean it is desirable to practice in [plastics].
  3. I can find only one thing that links the most satisfying specialties: LIFESTYLE.  If you look at dermatology, psychiatry, emergency medicine, infectious disease, pathology, and ophthalmology they have a great lifestyle in common. They all have minimal call, good salary (but they are not the big earners), and few emergencies.  They all lend themselves well to family, recreation, and other hobbies outside of medicine.


My unsolicited advice:

  • I am sure there are my internists and plastic surgeons who are very satisfied with their jobs. I would bet that they knew exactly what there were getting into before they choose their specialty. Satisfaction in the workplace has lots to do with managing your expectations (and the expectations of your family and friends!)  If you really love some of the specialties that do not have the best lifestyle, that is great, just make sure you know that this will be an issue before you go into he specialty. Once you have made that decision, you will not be shocked (and neither will your family/friends) when you work a lot more than those around you.

The Most Recruited Medical Specialties

Now that I am in the first year of residency I am beginning to think about landing that first real job.  As a Transitional Year resident I am heavily involved with the Internal Medicine residents at my hospital.  I found out very quickly that these internal medicine residents are HIGHLY sought after. In fact, many of them receive job offers on a weekly, or even daily basis.  The jobs that are in highest demand for internists are outpatient primary care and inpatient hospitality.  Many of my senior residents are being offered salaries between $200,000 and $300,000 along with many benefits including loan repayment. There are even some offers higher than $300,000 for less desirable locations! This is in a stark contrast to the ophthalmology job market that I will face, where starting salaries are low and it is terribly difficult to get your foot in the door.

Recently, I came across the Merritt Hawkins database.  Merritt Hawkins obtains information about starting salaries and benefits for newly graduated residents. I speak about their great physician salary database in my Ultimate Guide to Physician Salaries. However, their database also contains a list of the 20 most recruited specialties in medicine. The list may shock you!  The ability to find a well paying job right out of residency is NOT AT ALL correlated with the competitiveness of the specialty.  Case in point: family physicians and general internists are the two most highly recruited specialists in medicine!

From Merritt Hawkins


This list represents the Top 20 most ‘requested physician searches by medical specialty.’ The numbers represent the number of times Merritt Hawkins was used to recruit a person from the respective specialties (Merritt Hawkins full PDF including physician compensation data is available here for free). So, when you are deciding on a specialty, don’t forget that competitive does not equal good job placement.  In fact, many of the least competitive specialties are very high on this list (pediatrics, psychiatry, family medicine)

Spotlight Interview: Matching in Radiology

From Hartford Hospital

A Radiology Resident’s Perspective:

From an interview with an radiology resident from New York City, NY

Part of an interview series entitled, “Specialty Spotlights“, which asks medical students’ most burning questions to physicians of every specialty.  See what doctors from every specialty had to say about why they chose their specialty and how to match in their residency.


  • How competitive is the radiology match?

Last year (2011) it wasn’t even specified as “competitive” by the NRMP. However, in general, radiology is a popular choice. I considered myself a consistent but average medical student, and had no trouble getting plenty of interviews. Be realistic with your choices, and don’t think about of the cost of your application. If you are feeling insecure, cast a wide net and spend some time asking yourself what really matters in a program.


  • What are residencies looking for in a radiology applicant?
Well first of all, board scores. It is the first screen they put all candidates through. But you were already going to do your best, weren’t you? Once you have the interview, just try to be amiable and show good communication skills. Don’t be too forward, arrogant, or serious. This is all opinion but I don’t think your potential as a radiologist can be divined by an interview. They are just looking for someone they wouldn’t mind sharing space with for 4 years! Try to relax and enjoy it.


  • What do you wish you knew before application/interview season?  

If you know you are going to rank a place at the bottom of 10 or more programs, consider cancelling your interview.


  • What should students look for in a radiology residency?

I will only mention what is most important: Find the residents, talk to all of them, and ask yourself if you would enjoy seeing them every day. Sure, the upper levels will be gone by the time you get there, but the environment you see will not be much different.


  • What other advice do you have for students applying to radiology residency?

You have made the right choice. You will match. Anyone who says anything different (e.g. co-interviewees) knows nothing about it and is probably just trying to get inside your head for petty reasons. Don’t let them succeed… spend your time talking with positive, supportive friends and family. Use advisors. If yours is unhelpful or cannot answer your questions, find an ‘unofficial advisor’ who can cheer you on. They need not be radiologists. They should not be hard to find, the good ones are usually very involved with students.


Editor's Note: Applying for residency or preparing for your interviews? I highly recommend First Aid for the Match, The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match, and The Residency Interview: How To Make the Best Possible Impression .


Is the Patient’s Device Safe for MRI? is a great resource for medical students, residents, and all medical personnel.  We all know that when a patient has a pacemaker from 2004 that they can not get a thoracic MRI. However, what if the patient had a recent shoulder replacement? What if the patient has a port for chemotherapy? What if the patient had recent spinal surgery? No matter what the circumstance, you can search this website for the patient’s device and find out if it is safe for an MRI.

The main website is…

Or, the searchable list of implantable devices can be found directly at…

The list of all searchable products includes:

  • Pumps
  • Aneurysm clips
  • Bone and Nerve stimulators
  • Cardiac Pacemakers and AICDs (defibrillators)
  • Breast and other soft tissue implants
  • Coils, Filters, Stents, Grafts
  • Dental Implants and Devices
  • Catheters
  • Clips
  • Foreign Bodies
  • Ocular Implants, lens
  • Sutures
  • Etc.


American College of Radiology: Appropriateness Criteria

Have you ever wondered what imaging test should be ordered for your patient? What radiologic test would be most beneficial in this situation? What imaging test should I order first? If a patient comes in with a painful knee, should I get an x-ray or go straight to MRI?  If a woman comes in with a non-tender breast mass should I get an ultrasound before the mammogram?  These are difficult questions; luckily The American College of Radiology (ACR) has our back! The ACR publishes a fantastic online resource they call the “Appropriateness Criteria” which details the best imaging tests for nearly every presentation.

They website allows the user to choose between a variety of organ systems (e.g. women’s health, urology, gastrointestinal).  In each organ system the user can then choose a specific complaint (e.g. breast mass, hematuria, dysphagia). For each complaint, the ACR then allows the user to choose what specific patient presentation is occuring (e.g. 35 year old woman with a new breast mass vs. 35 year old woman with a mass seen on mammogram vs. 70 year old woman with a new breast mass). In each circumstance, the ‘Appropriateness Criteria” explains what is the best radiologic test to help diagnose the patient’s problem.  They explain in detail the advantages and disadvantages of each test (MRI, CT scan, ultrasound, x-ray, etc) for each specific problem.

The criteria are updated every few years, the most recent data comes from 2009. One of the best parts about the ACR Appropriateness Criteria can be found at the end of each section. Not only do they make suggestions about which tests will be most useful in diagnosis, they also provide a literature review for EVERY SINGLE patient complaint which outlines what research and studies they are using when making their suggestions.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this website. In fact, there are few resources that I can recommend higher. I have used this many times and they intricacies and precision of the criteria still surprise me.  There is NO BETTER RESOURCE available to determine which imaging tests are indicated for a specific patient presentation.


A website for studying radiology

During gross anatomy it is important to find good resources to study pathology and radiology, as many of your test questions will use these applications of anatomy.  There are a few resources that are very good, and many resources that are mediocre.  I have found that is one of the best ways to study radiology.

The website is totally free and does not even require a login.  It is broken up by organ system, which is perfect for gross anatomy. There are free quizzes that range from simple to very demanding.  Many of their questions and “Cases of the week” are case based problems, and very similar to test formats and USMLE formats.

This would be a great and free study tool for gross anatomy, for reference whenever you need to study a specific radiologic finding, or for a radiology rotation.