The past and the future of interventional radiology shared the stage during Monday’s “IR EVOLUTION” plenary session, including a retrospective on the history of the specialty and the pioneers who laid the groundwork for where IR is today and presentations from early career IRs and trainees who discussed the reasons they were drawn to the specialty. It culminated with a discussion on the evolving professional identity of the interventional radiologist.
The next generation of IRs is well represented at SIR 2018 with more than 1,000 trainees in attendance, including approximately 400 medical students. Among those future leaders of the specialty are Funmilola Oladini, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, who just matched to the Stanford Interventional Radiology Residency Program, and Erica Alexander, MD, an R2 radiology resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Oladini and Dr. Alexander shared some of their reasons for selecting interventional radiology as their career.
“The field has reinforced for me the idea that ‘impossible’ is a relative term,” Oladini said. “With the precedent for continuous improvement set by the early pioneers of the field, we must continue to examine ourselves and make sure we don’t get stuck on what is currently considered impossible. When thinking about a problem that seems insurmountable, let us reframe our perspective and our approach; let us tell ourselves the question is not ‘if,’ but ‘how.’”
Similarly, Dr. Alexander said that she became fascinated with the minimally invasive, technologically innovative therapies of IR early in medical school.
“Interventional radiology appealed to the reasons I decided to pursue a career in medicine in the first place — it was a field that offered treatment options for patients who otherwise had few,” she said. “I remember early on thinking that the interventional radiologists were the cowboys and cowgirls of medicine. They took on the hemorrhaging trauma patients, the stage 4 cancers and the occluded vessels — the no-man’s land of medicine.”
Dr. Alexander emphasized the important roles that mentors have played at every stage of her education and training and encouraged her early-career peers to pick up the mentorship mantle for the next generation of IRs.
“It’s never too early to start as a mentor. Providing trainees with the opportunity to shadow and to learn from you, encouraging them to attend meetings and offering them meaningful ways to advance their careers is the key to prosperity in our specialty,” she said. “We are the future of this field, and being emboldened by the generations before us and empowering the ones to come after us is the best way for IR to flourish.”
Plenary session co-chairs Robert J. Lewandowski, MD, FSIR, and Parag J. Patel, MD, MS, FSIR, led a panel discussion on IR training pathways, including the genesis and current state of the IR/DR residency. The plenary concluded with a unique joint presentation by SIR Past-president Robert L. Vogelzang, MD, FSIR, and fourth-year medical student Eric J. Keller, MA, who discussed an ongoing study in which they have taken an anthropological approach to examine the “shifting professional identity” of interventional radiology and what it means to the future of the specialty.
James F. Benenati, MD, FSIR, Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute, opened the plenary with a look back at the birth of IR, highlighting the abilities, characteristics and mindsets of the early practitioners who shaped the field. The spirit of innovation that drove the early pioneers of IR, he said, is alive and well in the up-and-coming generation of interventional radiologists.