The Smarts

June 24, 2016

The usual suspects in radiology.

If you’re in health care, let alone a specialty which is desirable and therefore competitive to enter, chances are you’ve got more going on in your cranium than the average mammalian biped. You might be (or have been called) intelligent, smart, clever, wise, or any combination of such things. The not-quite-synonymous nature of these terms goes hand in hand with occasional “news” items about different kinds of intelligence.

By now you’re probably more than a little aware of areas in which your brain does better work than others. For instance, while I’m reasonably confident in my ability to put words together in a sensible and occasionally clever way, and I know my way around puzzles and problem solving, God help anyone looking to me when it comes to mechanical knowhow like fixing something. Or assembling it in the first place (I’m looking at you, Mr. Aeron-chair).

Such insight has its uses, but it’s extrospection (did you know that was a real word? I didn’t, but Merriam-Webster tells me it is) that’s needed when seeking assistance from colleagues in the workplace, such as with a challenging imaging study or a prickly interpersonal situation. If one hasn’t been paying attention, one might not know precisely who to use as a “lifeline.” Yes, chances are they’re all smart or they wouldn’t be in their current positions, but who will best assist with a given issue? Some archetypes of smarties, then, to better pigeonhole those around you:

The Memorizer. Likely more common amongst radiologists than elsewhere in society, because rote learning of lists, figures, etc. does come in handy…starting with premed courses and continuing right through postgrad training. Others (like the Researcher, below) might not choose to commit to memory exhaustive diagnostic differentials, or multiple cancer staging and organ injury grading schemes. For the Memorizer, however, it comes naturally to do so…sometimes to the point that he is a little too eager to regurgitate his lists rather than engaging in some original, “outside the box” thinking.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"49708","attributes":{"alt":"Radiologists","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_5337228926976","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"6029","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 136px; width: 170px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"©subarashii21/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

The Researcher. The near-opposite of the Memorizer, the Researcher sees no point in memorizing stuff, either because he has difficulty doing so or just cannot see value in it when the stuff is so easily looked up…which he’s really, really good at doing. Others will still be fumbling around with Google or indexes of reference texts on their shelves when the Researcher casually turns up a reliable source with a solid answer, 2-3 secondary sources if needed, and maybe even a teaching file worthy case illustrating the matter. His weakness? Being caught without access to the Internet or written references.

The Encyclopedia. An odd blend of the Memorizer and Researcher, in that he’s got a huge amount of knowledge on all sorts of topics stored in his memory, and knows precisely where to go for better detail on any of it if needed…except much of his topic material is irrelevant to whatever you’re asking him. Show him a challenging case about some weirdo rare tumor, for instance, and he’ll eagerly tell you all about some bronze medalist skeet-shooter who had the same pathology 23 years ago. More worthwhile a teammate than you might think-sometimes you just need an interesting deviation from the work at hand, and the Encyclopedia rarely disappoints. Plus, once in a while, his tangential input sticks in your memory, and helps you remember whatever you ultimately figure out regarding the problem you brought to him in the first place.

The Politician. Your go-to guy when it comes to schmoozing with referrers, regulators, at-odds colleagues, and anybody else who needs to be charmed or appeased. A real smoothie, he’s also good at talking his way out of tight spots…such as when you ask him for his input on an imaging study that’s baffling you. He might give reassuring, vague comments supporting your favored hypothesis, or distract from the matter by engaging you in pleasant conversation about anything unrelated. If he does have actual thoughts about the case, be on your guard: A longshot-guess from him can sound awfully convincing.

Jack of all trades, master of none. Don’t expect brilliant, super subspecialty work from this one…but on the flipside, you can count on him to perform decently just about anywhere you put him to work. He’ll hold down the fort in mammo, fluoro, “light interventional” as they like to call it, ER…wherever the need may be…but a typical day’s work will invariably contain some stuff that’s over his head. Some Jacks know this about themselves, and will make healthy use of curbside consults from other members of the team (who should respond generously lest they lose Jack’s willingness to fill in wherever and whenever). Others, like younger Jacks with something to prove or older Jacks with egos that need a little tamping down, have a tendency to bite off more than they can chew.

The Laser-beam. Poster-child for the Attention-Excess Disorder I kinda sorta invented a few columns back, he’s amazingly focused and on-task. He can work insanely long hours, seemingly without a need to take breaks, and is one of the prime workhorses in the group. Ringing phones, others chatting in the reading room, a nailbiting 7th World Series game going on in the background-he’s unfazed by it. Lasers also tend to be good at drilling down when it comes to researching tricky cases…they’re not lightning quick like the Researcher, but they’re tenacious and eventually get the sought-after info. Don’t expect good results if you put him in a multitasking situation, though; he’s best left alone with a towering stack of cases to read.

The Troubleshooter. In many ways the opposite of the Laser-beam, this one hungers for problems to solve. They’re interesting challenges for him, like puzzles, perhaps because he gets a little bored with his daily grind, and these other pursuits are off his beaten path. A “lateral thinker,” he finds it satisfying if not downright enjoyable to take on issues others have not (or tried and failed at), and solve them in ways heretofore untested, even unconceived. To some, especially his superiors, he might come across as more of a troublemaker than shooter, because he’ll often be the one pointing out issues that others haven’t yet identified…or at least, proposed as actionable items.