Guest Editorial: You might be a radiologist if...

By C. Douglas Phillips, MD, FACR
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Dr. Phillips is a Professor in the Departments of Radiology, Neurosurgery, and Otolaryngology; Director of the Division of Neuroradiology; and Vice Chair of Finance in the Department of Radiology, University of Virginia Health Systems, Charlottesville, VA. He is also a member of the editorial board of this journal.

Another RSNA came and went, and what can I show for it? I have attended the RSNA for quite a few years, and I love every minute of it. I come away with new ideas, some refreshing of old ideas, and a growing sense of awe to be a part of a specialty that can mobilize such a massive array of bright, innovative people and cutting-edge technology. A few spectacular dinners are a nice touch too. I love the RSNA and I'm okay with that. Some people complain that they get too much radiology, but for me that can't happen. That would be like getting too much money, or too much ___ . Well, you fill in the blank.

I was born and raised in a small town in West Virginia, since there weren't any big ones at the time. At least now there are several stop lights. I lived in a town where I could tell someone that I lived "out the 4-lane" and they would know exactly where I meant. I have warm feelings for the place I come from and the people who live there, which leads me to this interlude. I kind of enjoy redneck humor. Jeff Foxworthy has made a career of the "you might be a redneck if…" line. As an academic radiologist, I recall experiences that define my career choice in much the same way that Mr. Foxworthy defines the redneck moniker. These are experiences most of us can relate to. So, in that spirit "you might be an (academic) radiologist if:"

  • You've ruined several pairs of shoes from contrast media stains.
  • Finding a face, animal shape, or neat pattern in bowel gas, bone, or soft tissues can occupy a happy 10 minutes of your day.
  • You appreciate the value of (some) abdominal fat.
  • You've become used to hearing requests for "portable CT (or MR)" for unit patients (typically during July).
  • Spending a few hours in front of a high-definition TV monitor means work to you, not the ESPN game of the week.
  • You believe fervently that the one who dies with the most CT detectors wins.
  • Your idea of "revenge" is conducting radiology conference in the operating room during surgery.
  • You've given up explaining to anyone what "wet read" and "flat plate" really mean.
  • You think terms like k-space, half-Fourier transform, short tau inversion recovery, and anisotropic diffusion are wicked cool.
  • You have a T-shirt with Roentgen's face on it…and you actually wear it in public.
  • You can review the same study for the fourth time with the next team "on rounds," exhibiting the same gusto and zeal you had the first three times; well, at least without pounding your head on the desk.
  • You look forward to going to Chicago, in winter, for a meeting.
  • You have a well-rehearsed story explaining to the curious that your film badge does, in fact, involve the CIA, The X-Files, and alien encounters.
  • Your backache really is work-related.
  • Your thick-rimmed black glasses are not just a fashion statement.
  • You rage against people who think a "rad tech" and a radiologist are the same.
  • Your eyes are insured for far more than any other part of your anatomy, even parts that you might value more highly.
  • You (like Dracula) do your best work in the dark. "Turn off that damn light! Can't you see I'm busy?"
  • You used to be able to snap a film into the view box from 3 feet away…with perfect alignment.
  • You know that the quickest way to find the film you need is to completely empty the jacket on the floor and find the one with the most fingerprints on it.
  • You're used to telling someone 8 to 10 times that "normal" means no blood, no fracture, no soft-tissue swelling, no subluxation, no mass, no mass effect, no new stroke, no NOTHING.
  • Finally, you might be a radiologist if you find a barium cocktail oddly appealing. Is that strawberry? Cool.

Certainly you have had such experiences that punctuate your career in this specialty. I hope that when you reflect upon them, you also smile with satisfaction at the great choice you made.

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Guest Editorial: You might be a radiologist if....  Appl Radiol. 

January 18, 2005
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