Purpose and Mission
Radiologists are medical doctors who specialize in taking and interpreting a broad range of diagnostic imaging tests and procedures or treatments that involve the use of X-rays, ultrasound, and other internal scanning technologies. The primary responsibility of a radiologist is to work closely with other doctors and healthcare professionals to provide diagnoses and treatments with medical imaging. Working together with other medical experts, radiologists have the knowledge to diagnose your medical problem or symptom based on images of the inside of your body.
Those taking up radiology as a career can choose a general radiology practice, or can decide to specialize in breast imaging, musculoskeletal imaging, cardiac imaging, paediatric imaging, or interventional radiology.
Most radiologists work in a private practice. In most cases, they don’t have a “boss”, although individual members are overseen by the board of the practice and the medical committee of a hospital or clinic. Some radiologists are actual employees of a hospital, clinic or insurance company, and they typically report to a service or department head.
Some radiologists have notable supervisory responsibilities for the radiology staff of a hospital or clinic, while others have little oversight responsibilities as they are hired on a consulting basis. Senior radiologists typically have greater supervisory responsibilities, especially relating to training intern/resident radiologists.
A radiologist has a bachelor’s degree and has earned an MD by graduating from medical school. After graduating from medical school, radiologists must finish a two or three year residency under the supervision of experienced physicians.
Those who wish can apply to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians for a fellowship in radiology. It takes several years of additional clinical training to earn a prestigious RACP fellowship in cardiology.
Responsibilities of a Radiologist
The primary responsibility of a radiologist is to assist other medical professionals in diagnosing and treating illnesses. This involves ordering appropriate imaging tests to answer questions about a symptom, injury, possible disease or treatment, or if imaging is even warranted.
If a body imaging scan of some type is required, radiologists know what scan will most likely answer the question, or, if more than one imaging test is needed, the optimal order in which to perform the tests.
Radiologists present and discuss the diagnostic and interventional imaging results with the doctor who referred you.
The three major sub-fields of radiology are diagnostic, interventional and therapeutic (radiation oncology).
Diagnostic imaging involves X-ray radiology, CT scans, MRI scans, as well as ultrasound and nuclear medicine imaging to create images which can be interpreted to help diagnose diseases.
Interventional radiologists both treat and diagnose disease with imaging technology. Some interventional radiologists specialize in the brain or spinal cord (neurointervention) or in the blood vessels (angiointervention). Interventional radiology involves minimally invasive procedures with the use of X-ray, magnetic or ultrasound imaging as a guide for the procedure, performed with very small surgical instruments and thin tubes (catheters) threaded into an artery or vein.
Therapeutic / Radiation Oncology
Radiation oncologists apply radiation as a treatment for diseases such as cancer. These specialists are called radiation oncologists, although they are officially members of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists.