This past month has been fairly quiet, which is a good thing. Having finished all of my required rotations, I decided to spend some time exploring some electives I thought would be useful for my future career. I spent the first two weeks of April with the radiology team in Jacksonville, where I learned how to better read ultrasounds, CTs and MRIs. I have always found radiology very interesting because you get the opportunity to actually see what’s going on inside the patient: a kidney stone on a non-contrast CT, a deep vein thrombosis on an ultrasound or large uterine fibroids on an MRI. All of these extraordinary things are made visible to us, quickly and with relatively little discomfort for the patient. It really makes you appreciate the day and age we live in.
The rooms where the radiologists work are spacious but very dark, with just enough lighting to keep you from bumping into things while walking around. It reminded me of being in a movie theater. And indeed it was pretty quiet in there, as the radiologists all dictated their notes into microphones using soft, low voices. But as relaxed as the environment seemed, I learned that being a radiologist is very challenging. You need to possess a very keen eye and a talent for description. Radiologists are always vigilant for emergent and critical findings, making sure no organs or spaces go unmissed, and they relate their findings in such a concise and elegant way that you can picture exactly what they are talking about without having to look at the images yourself. I was not nearly as good as they were at picking up abnormalities, so they took the time to teach me their approaches to looking through an imaging study, as well as some tricks on how to identify certain important structures in the body. By the end of the first week, I felt much more confident and comfortable with reading imaging studies.
For the second week of radiology, I worked with the mammography team in the outpatient clinic. This was probably my favorite part of the rotation, as knowing about breast cancer screening, its signs and symptoms and how it is treated is a very important part of being an ob/gyn. I spent a lot of time with the radiologists there, looking at screening and diagnostic mammograms. The images are viewed on special high-resolution monitors that are specifically approved for interpreting mammograms. I learned how to classify breast tissue density, identify normal and abnormal lymph nodes, distinguish calcification patterns and identify and describe abnormal-appearing densities. I also learned about the other tools we have to better characterize suspicious lesions, like magnification, spot compression, tomosynthesis and ultrasound. In addition to reading mammograms, we also performed stereotactic biopsies and radioactive seed implants. Overall, I was very grateful for the chance to work with the mammography team, as I now know much more about what breast cancer screening entails and how the process works, which will help me better counsel my patients on what they can expect when it comes time for them to start their screening.
After radiology, I did a two-week online course in clinical nutrition. It was very informative and I learned a lot. It made me pay closer attention to just how important food intake and exercise habits are to a person’s overall health, and I was able to learn about good nutrition resources to talk to patients with for topics like weight loss, special diets and food allergies and food sensitivities. During that time I was also getting ready for intern year, filling out paperwork and making sure all my records were in order. I expect that many of my classmates are doing the same, on top of other things like looking for apartments to rent and learning more about their residency programs.
Over the next three weeks, however, all of us will be returning to the classroom to participate in our “Internship 101” course, where we will get an orientation on what to expect during the first year of our residencies. Many of the lectures will cover the most common topics, like how to select antibiotics or how to manage common urgent conditions. But there are other important things that we weren’t necessarily taught during medical school, like how to manage our personal finances or how to prepare a formal lecture presentation.
I am very much looking forward to learning about what to expect during intern year, and it will be nice to see all of my classmates again. With less than a month until graduation, I am sure everyone will be very excited!