Interventional radiologists at Brown help more students discover their field.
In September, 85 medical students from across the Northeast gathered at the Warren Alpert Medical School for a day of lectures, hands-on simulations, and networking at an annual symposium for one of the newest subspecialties in medicine: interventional radiology, or IR.
“The goal is to expose medical students to IR early on in medical school, to not only help students get involved early, but also to expand the knowledge base of procedures in any field one goes into,” says Lauren Park MD’19, the 2018- 2019 chair-elect of the Society of Interventional Radiology Medical Student Council.
More than 400 medical students applied for 125 IR integrated residency spots in the US last year, says Sun Ho Ahn ’93 MD’97 RES’02 F’03, an associate professor of diagnostic imaging and director of the IR residency and fellowship programs at Brown, which he established in 2016—one of only a few dozen programs in the country.
One reason IR is gaining popularity is because it is broadly applicable across specialties. “IR treats all different organs and diseases—vascular diseases, tumors. We treat patients from head to toe,” Ahn says. “IR treats patients using image guidance with minimally invasive procedures. It’s really the cutting edge.”
But few medical students are exposed to interventional radiology early in their studies. Park says she’s heard
about students who discovered IR late in their third-year rotations, when they’d already started applying for residency.
That’s why, for six years running, Brown has hosted IR symposia: to give students earlier exposure to the field.
Physicians offer lectures to show off IR’s depth and breadth, and students get to try some procedures—the only time they can freely use the technology and techniques without compromising patient care. “It’s nice for students to get a stress free, hands-on experience,” Park says.
One of the organizers of the first symposium was Erica Alexander ’11 MD’15, now a diagnostic radiology resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and a past chair of the Society of Interventional Radiology Medical Student Council (two of the council’s six chairs have been Warren Alpert medical students).
Alexander says she first learned about IR in an article in US News in 2008, and she contacted Damian Dupuy, MD, a professor of diagnostic imaging, to find out more. By her senior year at Brown, she knew she wanted to pursue IR. Alexander helped lead the Medical School’s IR Interest Group, and she joined the Society of Interventional Radiology. “It was inspiring to learn about the breadth of radiology. I wanted to expose more students to it,” she says.
In addition to hosting the annual symposium, Brown’s IR Interest Group helps put together a preclinical elective
for first- and second-year medical students to introduce them to the field and create shadowing opportunities. The group also connects students with mentors, who can help guide their medical education.
“My mentors really helped me,” Park says. “Without them, I don’t think I would have been able to keep up my interest in IR.”