Reaching pre-med students is crucial to the future of interventional radiology, experts say

Ever since the American Board of Medical Specialties recognized interventional radiology as a specialty eight years ago, program directors have struggled to bring in medical students.

But authors of a new letter argued that individuals must be reached earlier in their careers to facilitate the growth of vascular and interventional radiology. Yale School of Medicine experts shared their own success, using a webinar pilot program to communicate with pre-medical students, Wednesday in Academic Radiology.

“As demand for VIR continues to grow, it will be necessary to begin recruitment earlier than the medical school training phase, in order to better promote awareness of and diversity within the specialty,” George G. Vatakencherry MD, with Yale’s Section of Interventional Radiology, and colleagues wrote.

To achieve this, the medical school’s VIR interest group created a webinar highlighting specific interventional cases across multiple subfields. Undergrads were contacted via an online sign-up form, which gauged their level of awareness and included demographic-related questions.

Of the 31 premed students who attended the webinar, 42% had never heard about vascular and interventional radiology. After it was over, however, 68% asked for more information about potential opportunities.

“Our pilot webinar suggests that interest in VIR may begin as early as premedical experiences; however, there must be programs in place to facilitate this interest,” Vatakencherry et al. wrote.

The experts said there are ongoing national efforts to create such an infrastructure, but more can be done. For example, the Society of Interventional Radiology’s outreach program and Women in IR and Diversity & Inclusion committees can expand to target premedical students. Undergraduate schools can develop VIR-specific resources, while medical school-run interest groups should host informational sessions and offer mentorship opportunities.

Students who may lean toward surgical subspecialties are likely interested in the procedure-heavy aspect of VIR, the authors noted, including the year of surgical training required during residency.

And not only can awareness lead to better patient care, but may also increase the field’s diversity, the researchers wrote. They noted that 65% of students who attended their webinar were women. 

“As we continue to think about the pipeline of future VIR trainees, we must not forget that this extends beyond the traditional pool of medical students, residents, fellows, and faculty,” Vatakencherry and colleagues concluded. “Doing so can facilitate optimized training and patient care.”

Read the entire letter to the editor in Academic Radiology.