Wanted: Residents who like computers

June 8, 2007

Last year, the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine attracted 24 essays from residents and other trainees vying to win travel reimbursement to the meeting. This year, the society received no essays, according to Dr. Barton F. Branstetter IV, chair of the SIIM education committee, who moderated a morning resident roundtable session.

Last year, the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine attracted 24 essays from residents and other trainees vying to win travel reimbursement to the meeting. This year, the society received no essays, according to Dr. Barton F. Branstetter IV, chair of the SIIM education committee, who moderated a morning resident roundtable session.

Branstetter and other SIIM officials found themselves wondering how best to make residents aware of informatics in general and the society in particular.

One concern is that residents do not perceive the value of training in informatics, according to SIIM board member Dr. Stephen Horii, who attended the roundtable.

"The major goals of residents are to pass the boards and get a job. I can't argue with that, but we're trying to make the argument that they can get a better job or have a more interesting career if they do have informatics training," said Horii, a professor of radiology and clinical director of the Medical Informatics Group at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ultimately, the only determinant that may get residents interested in informatics would be to include questions about it on the boards, he said.

Last year, the society had sent a letter to program directors about the contest, and residents had engaged in a lively online discussion about it. This year, those two things did not happen, but press releases went out as scheduled.

"We misjudged the relative importance of different media," Branstetter said.

All levels of trainees can enter the essay contest, but the optimal entrant is a first- or second-year resident. The assumption is that early in their choice process they can be encouraged to take an interest in imaging informatics that could possibly lead to a fellowship, Branstetter said. Seven fellowships are registered with SIIM.

Announced at today's business meeting are two grant processes that, although open to anyone, could be fairly attractive to residents. One is a microgrant of small amounts of money up to $5000 for anyone with a high-risk novel idea, "the sort of thing residents often come up with," Horii said. It could be something currently not used in imaging but offering potential.

A smaller mini-grant is available, as are senior mentor grants for retirees who want to mentor students.

Horii also suggested that facilities can make better use of their informatics alumni. Old grads can visit their alma mater and relay their experiences since starting to practice.