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AAA Radiology


Success in radiology comes with these three characteristics.

Physicians say there is a simple way to be successful in medicine: be triple A. You will be successful if you are available, affable, and able.

But what is success? Career success has two components: intrinsic success and extrinsic success. Intrinsic success is one’s subjective reactions to their work (i.e., job satisfaction). Extrinsic success is an objective measure, easily observable to others, such as a promotion(1–3).

Triple A radiologists deliver the best patient care. Common sense and research findings remind us that these three principles aren’t trivial adjectives. They are what every patient wants. They are what every colleague wants. And they are what you want… if you want to be successful.

An available radiologist is prepared to respond in emergent situations.

Patients want? [x] Yes [ ] No

Colleagues want? [x] Yes [ ] No

Availability is also related to the “want it” factor, necessary to accomplish career success. If you make it known that you are someone available for additional responsibility, and that you aspire for more from your job and company, you will be on a trajectory towards promotion(4). Promotion (i.e., extrinsic success) is accomplished by “the available” radiologist. Being available to teach, conduct research, and contribute administratively is how a radiologist gets promoted(5).

Purely reading the Barco, and being unavailable, is not a way to accomplish extrinsic success in academic medicine. Unfortunately, blog-post writing may be the definition of over-availability, especially if you are an aspiring academic radiologist. But blogging DOES fit the mold for intrinsic success, and “job satisfaction,” as known by yours truly.

An affable radiologist is collegial and professional in interactions.

Patients want? [x] Yes [ ] No

Colleagues want? [x] Yes [ ] No

Someone who is affable is good-natured and easy to talk to. An affable person is friendly, pleasant, and social. Extrinsic success is more easily accomplished by affable personalities: people like working with affable people; affable people do better in interviews; people want to help affable people. Affability is part of the hidden curriculum of life.

Although it is not formally taught in medical school, students quickly learn the importance of being pleasant during the clinical years of medical school. The promotion scheme is no different in radiology. People may gripe about the devalued sense of meritocracy. But there is merit, too, in treating the people around you right and making your colleagues happy to come in to work each day. Radiology, like everything, is a team-sport.

An able radiologist is accurate in their interpretations.

Patients want? [x] Yes [ ] No

Colleagues want? [x] Yes [ ] No

Able radiologists know their material. They don’t “miss” a finding. They take pride in their ability to produce quality reports; they are conscientious. Conscientiousness is defined as, “the quality of wishing to do one’s work or duty well and thoroughly” (Oxford Languages Dictionary).

Conscientiousness is one of the “big five” traits (among neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, and agreeableness). Intrinsic career success (i.e., “job satisfaction”) was significantly correlated with only conscientiousness (r=.40) and general mental ability (r=.30). Regression analyses, however, revealed that only conscientiousness maintained an association with job satisfaction (beta=.34). Extrinsic career success was similarly positively correlated with conscientiousness (r=.41), and maintained significance after regression analysis (beta=.44)(3). Conscientiousness, as a construct, extends to work behavior(6), effective job seeking behavior(7), and retention(8). Conscientious people even live longer(9).

Common sense, correlations, p-values, and regression analyses support the belief that a successful radiologist is an AAA radiologist. The best way for a radiologist to achieve (intrinsic and extrinsic) success is to be available, affable, and able.

P.S. (to the radiologist):

An AAA radiologist is a successful radiologist.

Do you want this to be you? [x] Yes [ ] No

Follow Editorial Board member Jack Cerne, M.D., on Twitter @JackCerne.

1. Predictors for Managers’ Career Mobility, Success, and Satisfaction - Urs E. Gattiker, Laurie Larwood, 1988 [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jun 18]. Available from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/001872678804100801
2. Judge TA, Cable DM, Boudreau JW, Bretz RD. An Empirical Investigation of the Predictors of Executive Career Success. Pers Psychol. 1995;48(3):485–519.
3. Judge TA, Higgins CA, Thoresen CJ, Barrick MR. The Big Five Personality Traits, General Mental Ability, and Career Success Across the Life Span. Pers Psychol. 1999;52(3):621–52.
4. 10 Traits of Successful People Who Get Promoted [Internet]. The Muse. [cited 2021 Jun 18]. Available from: https://www.themuse.com/advice/10-reasons-some-people-get-ahead-in-their-careers-while-others-dont
5. Chapman T, Carrico C, Vagal AS, Paladin AM. Promotion as a clinician educator in academic radiology departments: guidelines at three major institutions. Acad Radiol. 2012 Jan;19(1):119–24.
6. Hogan J, Ones DS. Conscientiousness and integrity at work. Handb Personal Psychol [Internet]. 1997 [cited 2021 Jun 18]; Available from: https://experts.umn.edu/en/publications/conscientiousness-and-integrity-at-work
7. Wanberg C, Watt J, Rumsey D. Individuals without Jobs: An Empirical Study of Job-Seeking Behavior and Reemployment. J Appl Psychol. 1996 Feb 1;81:76–87.
8. Barrick MR, Mount MK, Strauss JP. Antecedents of involuntary turnover due to a reduction in force. Pers Psychol. 1994;47(3):515–35.
9. Friedman HS, Tucker JS, Schwartz JE, Martin LR, Tomlinson-Keasey C, Wingard DL, et al. Childhood conscientiousness and longevity: health behaviors and cause of death. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1995 Apr;68(4):696–703.
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