How I Finally Decided on the Right Specialty for Me

Stephanie K. Nguyen


March 08, 2018

Consideration 3: Innovation and Technology

Because interventional radiology is a relatively new field, and with many procedures leaning toward more minimally invasive approaches, a notable amount of research is going into developing new techniques and medical devices/instruments. This field still has so much room for innovation, and I feel strongly about wanting to contribute to its advancement.

In my opinion, this is where the future of medical procedures is heading. Every day, interventional radiologists are using their problem-solving skills to develop procedures that have never been done this way before. Furthermore, technology plays a huge role in this field. Interventional radiology uses a myriad of gadgets and cutting-edge technology to assist in solving problems. Being a tech nerd and former chemical engineer, this only draws me in further.

Consideration 4: Work-Life Balance and Compensation

From the interventional radiology attendings that I have spoken to, the number of hours worked varies widely by position and institution. Generally, the service is incredibly busy, so I can expect to work hard but also presume to get home at a reasonably decent hour on most days, unless I'm on call. Plus, most attendings responded favorably when asked their opinion about work-life balance in this field. I want to have passion for my work, but dedicating time for family is necessary in my life.

The length of training is something that I did place more weight on. The post–medical school training period is 6-7 years, depending on the route of training. This is a substantial time commitment and a slight deterrent, considering that I would eventually like to have a family.

The factor of compensation was lower on my list when selecting a specialty. Loving what I do is most important, although it certainly doesn't hurt if my specialty of choice is well compensated. It happens to be the case that the average salary for an interventional radiologist is one of the higher ones among specialists, so I can fret less about paying off my student loans.

Feeling Confident

When I think about my future career, I see myself as an interventional radiologist. This field fits with my personality so well, fulfilling the desire to be intellectually stimulated while catering to my procedure-driven interests.

To quickly recap: As an interventional radiologist, you are a triple threat—a master diagnostician, a proceduralist, and someone who is able to manage patients. I will have the opportunity to work on practically every organ system while using innovative techniques and technology. Then there's the extra perk of being dual board-certified, allowing for lots of flexibility in schedule.

It was also reaffirming that every interventional radiologist I have talked to is excited about this field and really loves what they do. Several times over the past few years, I have considered other specialties. But each time, I bounced right back to interventional radiology. I took that as a sign that I need to be a part of this.