Students prefer MSK, body, breast imaging during clerkship

Medical students prefer musculoskeletal, body, and breast imaging early in their clinical education, according to research published October 19 in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

A team led by Alexis Medema from Duke University also found that for core clerkships, women are more interested in breast imaging and pediatric radiology, while men showed more interest in body imaging, neuroradiology, and nuclear medicine.

“This information can inform efforts to enhance student engagement, recruit rising physicians to the field, and address the gender gap in radiology,” the Medema team wrote.

While radiology’s clinical role has expanded into a variety of healthcare settings, just 16% of medical schools require students to complete a radiology clerkship during their clinical years. Previous studies also suggest that more exposure to radiology improves student impressions of the field, increases enrollment in elective radiology rotations, and increases interest in radiology residency.

The researchers also noted that as radiology departments attempt to attract more medical students, department leaders can also find ways to attract more women to the field.

Medema and colleagues sought to gather perspectives from medical students on radiology subspecialties and evaluate gender differences in perspectives. They performed their study at an institution with a required radiology clerkship for second-year medical students.

The four-week radiology rotation involves didactic teaching for different imaging techniques and modalities. This also includes two week-long immersive experiences in two subspecialties of choice and a six-day survey consisting of half-days spent shadowing in six other subspecialties alongside current residents and attendings.

To measure preferences, the team used a 100-point scale in which the students ranked their preferences for their two immersive experiences by distributing the points across the eight subspecialties. A score of 100 points indicated maximum interest while zero points meant no interest. The team reported that the upper quartile of scores was found to be 20 points and defined this as the threshold for “strong interest.”

The researchers gathered preference data from 332 students, of whom 215 were women and 117 were men.

They found that overall, the students preferred immersive experiences in musculoskeletal, body, and breast imaging were most preferred. These earned 20 points or higher from 41.6%, 34.3%, and 31.9% of students, respectively.

The team also found the following:

Student interest in radiology specialty among women and men





Breast imaging




Pediatric radiology




Body imaging








Nuclear Medicine




The study authors wrote that analyzing these early interests and their influences can help identify pathways for engaging future physicians in radiology and improve the recruitment of prospective trainees.

“Given that these responses were obtained in advance of a second-year radiology clerkship, our findings suggest that perspectives on radiology subspecialties are established very early on, or possibly even prior to, medical training,” they wrote.

The full report can be found here.

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