Our “10 Questions” series asks the same questions to a diverse group of professionals in the medical imaging community.
Here, we profiled Vijay M. Rao, MD, FACR.
1. Please state your name, title and the organization you work for.
Vijay M. Rao, MD, FACR, David C Levin Professor and chair at the department of radiology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA.
2. How did you get where you are today?
I was recruited to the faculty during my radiology residency training at Thomas Jefferson University. I have stayed at the same institution ever since and have successfully climbed the academic ladder. I was the first woman to be named chair of a clinical department in Jefferson’s history. I got here with hard work, luck and support of many mentors, advisors, friends and family. One thing I learned was not to say no when opportunities knocked. Often, folks, especially women, tend to shy away from opportunities because of fear of failure. If you don’t take risk, you would never know that you could do it.
3. Why did you choose your profession?
I grew up in India in a family of physicians. Excellence was the way of life in my family and my father settled for nothing less than that. I was fascinated by radiology as a medical student even though it was in the dark ages prior to the advanced technology the way it is now. One had to think 3-D looking at 2-D pictures. It turned out to be a perfect choice given the technological revolution in radiology. I have had to reinvent myself every few years as we kept leap frogging with new technologies.
4. What is your biggest day-to-day challenge?
The biggest challenge is time management, keeping up with information overload and managing expectations of stakeholders (faculty, trainees, staff, administrators, patients, industry, referring physicians, etc.) in this era of major transformation of the health care delivery system in the U.S. Increasing regulatory mandates from all aspects of the health care delivery system leave less time for direct patient care, research and education; this erodes job satisfaction for physicians. Challenge is how you keep people engaged, motivated and able to drive change without burnout.
5. What worries, if any, do you have about the future of radiology? If none, where do you think the field is going?
I worry that radiology may lose its status as a respected specialty because of commoditization. It worries me when I see teleradiology corporations buying radiology practices and displacing radiology groups by securing hospital contracts for radiology services. I also worry that when new payment models are implemented, radiologists will not have too much clout unless they make an effort to be in the mainstream of patient care and build bridges with hospital administration.
6. What one thing would make your job better?
If everyone in the department put the interest and safety of the patient first.
7. What is your favorite thing about radiology?
We are making major contributions to patient care by making accurate diagnoses, and doing minimally invasive treatments given many technological advances leading to appropriate management and improved outcomes.
8. What is your least favorite thing about radiology?
Physicians without training in radiology think they are qualified to do radiology.
9. What is the field’s biggest obstacle?
Policy makers lack understanding of the value of imaging and spectrum of the services provided by radiologists. On an institutional level, under the new payment models, radiology is transitioning to a cost center and radiologists often don’t have a seat at the table.
10. If you could give the radiology industry one piece of advice, what would it be?
We must speak with a unified voice from organized radiology that represents the interests of both academic and private sectors. A culture change is imperative. Radiologists need to function as consultants, and become strong advocates for doing only appropriate studies and reducing unnecessary studies. Radiologists should work closely with hospital administration in running the radiology department, come into the mainstream of patient care and strive to earn a seat at the table where major decisions are being made. Academic radiology needs to continue to invest in research and training of future radiologists, even though it is getting more challenging as resources are becoming scarce. It is critical that radiology remain a respected specialty and, for that, commoditization has to be strongly resisted.