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Consider the Story Behind the Image


CHICAGO - Richard Gunderman, MD, urges radiologists to see beyond the superficial scans and tell the stories behind the images.

CHICAGO - When was the last time you really saw the CT scan or MRI for more than the medical image itself that guides your diagnosis? When did you last really consider the story behind the image?

“Our degree of engagement and inspiration in radiology hinges on our ability to dig deeply and see beyond the superficial aspects of the image,” Richard Gunderman, MD, PhD, professor and vice chair of radiology at Indiana University in Indianapolis, said this week at RSNA 2012.

If radiologists only see the technical features on the actual image, they will fail to take in the full picture and lose sight of what matters most in the profession: the patient.

The industry faces the danger of being too consumed by the superficial. How many titles are on your card? How well are you doing in your practice? What rung on the organization chart do you occupy? These priorities aren’t unimportant, he said, but they shouldn’t be the “signposts by which we navigate our careers and our lives.”

“We are in danger of spending too much time counting our money and not enough time on what really makes us tick,” Gunderman warned the audience during the plenary session.

Radiologists run the risk of focusing too much on throughput and efficiency and revenue, he said. That can contribute to physician burnout and despair. Reconnecting with the real stories behind the images will breathe life into your calling.

“We need to remember we are not just technicians and revenue generators,” he said. “We need to remember we are physicians.”

So how can radiologists recapture this more profound element of their careers? Tell stories, Gunderman said. Radiologists have become so busy, they forget to recognize and share stories. “When was the last time you heard a great story about what it means to be a radiologist? When was the last time you told a medical student or resident or junior partner a great story about what it means to be a radiologist?” he asked.

Radiologists need to “collect, disseminate and savor better stories,” he told the audience. Of course there’s not enough time in the day to delve into the history of every patient, but every scan, every case should be treated with respect and recognized as special and individual, he said, adding “There is a story behind every image.”

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