Top Ten Tips for Academic Radiologists
The first few years in academic radiology, especially year one, can be overwhelming. If you’re lucky, you will get excellent advice from colleagues from within and outside your department. If not, you may feel like you’re sailing in a boat without a rudder. Going into it without a solid plan and supportive guidance can mean the difference between early success and early failure.
As a radiologist, you have enough clinical work to keep you busy. Somehow you need to find time to tend to your academic passions. If you have a family, you need to make time for that too (and for scuba diving, playing the cello, traveling the world, or whatever you find to be personally fulfilling).
This post is about using time to your advantage. It will be most relevant to junior radiologists who are building their academic careers and looking to get promoted, but if you’re beyond this stage, or if you’re a resident or fellow planning on an academic career, you may also benefit from reading my “top ten tips.” The items are not listed in order of importance and I could keep going past ten. But people seem to like top ten lists, so here goes.
- Always have something in the mail. One of my mentors said this early in my career and it stuck with me. There’s something exciting about waiting on a decision as to whether your paper or abstract has been accepted. Or whether you will get the award or grant. It serves as motivation. Always having something in the mail is tangible evidence that you are actively pursuing your goals.
- Keep a to-do list. Having a list not only helps you meet deadlines but also means you never have to waste time wondering what to do next. And checking items off as they are completed will give you a sense of accomplishment.
- Leverage your work. This means getting the most out of your efforts. Don’t turn a project into just an abstract that you present at a meeting. With advanced planning, your research project can earn you a grant, presentation of an abstract, and publication of a paper. With enough forethought, you can make sure you meet the deadline to submit your work for an award. Once you’ve presented and published your work, people will invite you to give a talk as a visiting professor because you will be seen as an “expert” on the subject. That’s 5 items for your CV from one project.
- Put yourself out there. Let people know you are interested in serving on committees and collaborating on research. Be active and don’t always wait for someone to approach you. The more things you do, the more people you will meet, which will lead to more opportunities. Attend events at society meetings where more senior members mingle with junior members. Look outside your department and institution for mentors and collaborators. When the time is right, be a mentor to someone else.
- Develop a niche. Build on your strengths and consider pursuing areas of deficiency in your subspecialty area. I had an advanced degree in education and 6 years of teaching experience before going to medical school. I’d always been passionate about education and saw a need for someone to promote educational scholarship. I joined and later chaired numerous education committees locally and nationally. I teamed up with PhDs in medical education departments at my and other medical schools to do medical education research. I was a radiology program director and dean for graduate medical education. I built my career and brand around education. What’s your passion?
- Learn as much as you can. Take advantage of faculty development opportunities. Apply for a fellowship in radiology journalism (ARRS Figley Fellowship, ACR Bruce J. Hillman, MD Fellowship in Scholarly Publishing, RSNA William R. Eyler Editorial Fellowship). Apply for the AUR Faculty Development Course. Take advantage of local faculty development courses, especially if you’re female or a member of another underrepresented minority. The Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM) program offers an intensive one-year fellowship of leadership training with extensive coaching, networking and mentoring opportunities aimed at expanding the national pool of qualified women candidates for leadership in academic medicine. One or more women at your institution have probably attended – talk to them. Find out if your institution is one that offers a medical education fellowship (here, here, and here are a few that do). Consider getting another degree (MBA, MEd, etc.). Note: the networking opportunities are as valuable as what you learn from a fellowship.
- Document your teaching activities. Keep a record of courses taught, learner evaluations, curriculum development, and assessments and outcomes of these educational interventions. Document links to online presentations. Log all teaching awards. All of this can be chronicled in an educational/teaching portfolio (also here and here).
- Always have something to work on wherever you go. I don’t mean you should be working all the time. But if you’re sitting on an airplane, bus, or train you might as well be doing something constructive. Uninterrupted time to read background literature for a research project comes at a premium. Got a paper to review for Radiology, AJR, Academic Radiology, or JACR? You might be able to knock that off while you’re on the Peloton or sitting in the dentist/doctor’s waiting area. Note: In addition to adding something to your CV, being a reviewer is one of the best ways to become a better writer.
- Consider being active on #SoMe (social media). It can be a great way to network, which can open the door for speaking invitations and research collaboration. It takes time and you’ll have to judge whether it’s a good use of yours. If it becomes a burden you can dial down your efforts. Caution: be mindful of what you post. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing it on the news, think twice about posting it. It’s easy to feel anonymous when you post online, but you are never truly anonymous. Follow all patient privacy (HIPAA) rules.
- Update your curriculum vitae (CV) regularly. Don’t wait until the end of the year or until someone asks for a copy. Your CV should be an active document. Keep a shortcut on your desktop so it’s easy to get to when you want to add something. When you’ve spoken at a meeting, given a resident lecture, published a paper, received an award – whatever the accomplishment – put it on your CV. If you’re especially productive, you might keep a list of activities and update your CV every time you’ve accumulated a few. I know people who update their CV every couple weeks. Don’t put it off. It’s easy to forget lecture titles, dates, and even the activities themselves down the road. Plus, it will make you feel good to see how much you’ve accomplished every time your CV gets a little bit longer.