How interventional radiology programs are recruiting students

Interventional radiology/ diagnostic radiology (IR/DR) is the newest specialty option for medical students, but requires them to commit to such programs earlier than is traditionally required.  Authors of a recent Academic Radiology study surveyed IR programs across the country to get a better idea of how programs overcome this and continue to attract students.

The IR/DR pathway traditionally requires an intern year, with three years of diagnostic and two years of IR training in order for graduates to become dual-certified after six years. This means such students must make their decision four years before traditional diagnostic radiology students, and are thus less informed and prepared, wrote Juri Bassuner, MD, of Saint Louis University in Missouri, and colleagues.

“Our survey offers a glimpse at exactly what program directors are doing to address this issue and the collected responses reflect strategies that can be easily adopted by IR program directors throughout the country,” they added.

The questionnaire was designed to be answered in 10 minutes or less and was sent electronically to 51 IR/DR program directors. Eighteen responses were collected. The results are as follows:

  • All programs encouraged students apply to both the diagnostic and interventional radiology programs.
  • Ninety-four percent offered research opportunities.
  • A majority (78 percent) offered shadowing opportunities, included IR-specific interest groups and invited students to device workshops
  • Sixty-seven percent provided informal options for medical students to meet faculty.
  • Medical students were invited to journal clubs by 59 percent of respondents.
  • Half of the programs undertook student-faculty mentorship programs and performed social media outreach initiatives.

While fewer programs offered websites, journal clubs and online resources, the authors suggested program directors take advantage of thee IR Residency Training Committee of the Society of Interventional Radiology Resident Fellow Student Section (SIR-RFS) website which provides a wealth of IR-specific resources.

Although National Residency Matching Program Match data from 2018 showed IR/DR tied as the most sought-after residency, more work will need to be done to get the word out about IR/DR residency programs.

“While these trends are overall encouraging, further work is needed to discover the impact of these strategies on recruitment as well as retention,” the authors concluded. "As of now, it is too early to tell whether the perceived drawback of IR/DR residency (insufficient exposure to the field before committing to a 5-year residency) is a real problem. The attrition rate will surely offer some insight in a few years, once it can be accurately calculated.”

The low number of responses may have limited the impact of the study along with an inability to limit how often a survey could be completed by a single respondent. The latter, however, was likely not a factor, according to the group.