Tell Them Who We Are and What We Do

March 30, 2015

Give credit to radiologists when credit is due.

So I’m reading online news last week and come across the New York Times article entitled “Breast Biopsies Leave Room for Doubt, Study Finds”. Just in case any of you missed this leading lay medical journal exposé, the catalyst was also in last week’s JAMA entitled “Diagnostic Concordance Among Pathologists Interpreting Breast Biopsy Specimens”. The gist of these articles was that 1) Breast biopsies can be challenging for pathologists, particularly when they encounter features of atypia or atypical ductal hyperplasia; and 2) The recommendation for pathologists to seek a second opinion from colleagues or consider consultation with larger center pathologists when they encounter difficult cases.

I quickly shot a suggestive email to our MD Pathology Director and VP of Marketing encouraging a collaborative campaign to inform not just our patients, but also the entire population of our city and all surrounding communities, that we already routinely do the things that these articles recommend. I waxed…“Our patients need to know that we are state-of-the-art and that they are in good hands and completely safe when they come to our hospital.”

Lest my fervor for a non-radiology specialty get the best of me, I realized that the same passion for radiology should pervade all of us. It is well known that the general public is only vaguely aware of who radiologists are or what we really do. We all need to go on the educational band wagon for our specialty.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"33564","attributes":{"alt":"Ken Keller, MD","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_7596883296529","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"3539","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":"float: right;","title":"Ken Keller, MD","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Patients need to know that when they saw their doctor in the office, or when they ended up in the Emergency Room or when they followed up with their oncologist after chemotherapy, their pulmonary nodule, their appendicitis, or their cancer remission was diagnosed, in large part, by the radiologist, not their own physician. They need to know the fallacy of their own words when they tell their friends “my doctor found” this or that when, in reality, it was the radiologist that actually made the discovery and then told their physician, who in turn received the credit from the patient. It’s not that radiologists are looking for accolades; on the contrary, we are more than happy to be part of the team. Nonetheless, let’s give credit where credit is due. The radiologist typically finds the lesion and then the treatment flows from there.

We need to capitalize on every chance we get to break our mold of dark reading rooms, quiet personalities, or silent practitioners. We need to sensationalize our life-saving IR procedures and make everyone aware of what a radiologist is and what he or she brings to the table. No other specialty knows the depth or breath of pathophysiology across all patient profiles, regardless of age or sex of the patient.

How do we do this? Volunteer to address issues of concern, perhaps in the local newspaper, or radio or TV spots. Maybe community meetings or letters/appearances to individual patients or patient groups like cancer survivors, support groups, community service groups, etc. As radiologists, there may be a tendency to say nothing when something should be said or to retreat to the comfort of a work station or reading room when an appropriate comment would be timely or on queue. We need to resist the temptation to say nothing and embrace the opportunity to tell the world who we are and what we do.

Our colleagues and profession will be better for it.