A radiologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the interpretation of imaging tests. A radiologist goes through medical school just like any other doctor. The radiologist then chooses to specialize in diagnostic imaging during residency. Before starting residency, the radiologist does an intern year. This often involves working in a hospital taking care of patients on the hospital wards.
Following this clinical year, the radiologist enters a hospital training program in radiology. This is a 4 year concentrated course of study and practical experience in the interpretation of all types of medical tests. This is under the supervision of attending radiologists. Radiology trainees also get experience in providing emergency coverage during off hours which provides valuable experience. Radiology trainees rotate through all body systems and modalities such as cat scans and MRIs.
The radiology trainee has major tests during his training to ensure competency. This sets the path for board certification which is necessary for hospitals and payers. Following completion of residency, most radiologists choose to specialize in an area. This can be in neuroradiology for example. This specialty area works in the interpretation of brain, neck and spine imaging. Other areas of concentration include bone and joint imaging, body imaging which encompasses the chest, abdomen and pelvis, and interventional radiology which focuses on image guided procedures.
Following completion of training, the radiologist will usually work in a hospital setting. Some are in private practice while others choose to be employed by universities, veterans hospitals or other organizations. Radiologists often interpret a wide variety of imaging tests despite specialization. Many also work during off hours on weekends, evenings and nights. Radiology is a 24/7 field so coverage is always needed. The emergency room and hospital could not function without imaging tests which have to be interpreted by the radiologist.
A radiologist often works behind the scenes. Interpreting medical tests and guiding your doctors to offer you the appropriate treatment. While your doctor may have some knowledge of medical imaging, only the radiologist has the years of training and experience to provide the best and most complete interpretation of your medical test.
While the radiologist works behind the scenes, patients can always call the radiologist with any questions or concerns. They establish a doctor patient relationship just like your other doctors. You may even meet your radiologist if they do a procedure or come see you during an imaging test.