Special Distinction Tracks Within the Radiology Residency

Published in Radiology Update - 2022

Radiology has been at the forefront of medical science since Roentgen’s discovery of the x-ray in 1895. The field continues to evolve at a rapid pace, and today’s radiologists must be ready. At The Johns Hopkins Hospital, residents in the diagnostic and interventional radiology residency programs can customize their education and experiences by following one of five elective special distinction pathways. “The distinction tracks are something really special that we offer,” explained Erin Gomez, assistant professor of radiology and director of the diagnostic radiology residency program.

This program is the brainchild of Pamela Johnson, professor and vice chair of quality and safety in radiology, who developed the concept during her time as radiology residency director. The aim of the special distinction pathways, according to Gomez, is to “make sure we have the most comprehensive curriculum for residents.” The pathways allow residents to further develop their skills, with the mission of creating clinically excellent radiologists and future leaders in the field.

Residents can tailor their education to their career interests, customizing their research and study to better reflect their goals. “We have very ambitious residents,” noted Cheng Ting Lin, associate professor of radiology and director of the quality informatics fellowship track. “We continue to expand the tracks because every resident’s interests and career path are different,” he added. In addition to quality informatics, the special distinction pathways include clinical educator, health care policy, global health and the research scholar track. Each track is led by a specialized radiology faculty member. Residents in the tracks work directly with faculty to pursue additional research and gain hands-on experience. Each participant completes a special project and receives a certificate upon graduating from the residency program. The goals of the quality informatics track are to improve quality and safety in health care and to explore the practical applications of informatics tools. Lin successfully mentored three residents along this track in recent years. Working with Lin, the residents attend meetings and monthly QI conferences and participate in informatics research. Gomez is the director of the clinical educator pathway.

Residents in this track develop a curriculum, debut it in an educational setting and receive feedback. This often leads to additions to the program curriculum that are resident driven. For example, residents participate in a mock call program to better prepare them for thinking on their feet during overnight shifts. This experience was developed by a former resident in the clinical educator pathway. The health care policy pathway, headed by professor of radiology Katarzyna Macura, encourages residents to become active with national radiology organizations, including the American College of Radiology. Residents in this track have participated in lobbying activities in Annapolis, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., and have met with political leaders interested in hearing the perspective of radiologists.

For residents interested in a wider view of medicine, the new global health track, established in 2021 and directed by professor of radiology Doris Lin, provides a look at radiology on a worldwide scale. The aim is to improve access to radiological and imaging services in the global community. “The global health track is designed to enable residents to develop and hone skills necessary to generate, organize and execute a global health project, aimed at improving access to medical imaging services among underserved populations around the world,” Lin explained. As part of their work in the track, residents get the chance to organize an international or domestic global health project, apply for international travel grants and attend the annual RAD-AID International Conference. RAD-AID is a nonprofit group that provides imaging services around the world.

One of the most customizable pathways is the research scholar track. Headed by Martin Pomper, professor of radiology and director of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging, the track is highly specific to each resident, their career interests and the project they choose to pursue. Within this track, residents get the chance to research and get work published with world-renowned experts from across the department. Residents who opt to pursue a special distinction pathway usually enter the program in the second or third year of their four-year residency. Projects take approximately one year to complete. The special distinction pathways program is unique to Johns Hopkins. Few other radiology programs offer the number or variety of tracks to follow, nor the opportunity for residents to create and customize tracks based on their career goals and interests. According to Gomez, the residents themselves are the drivers of the program. “Our residents are so incredible; they come up with great ideas,” she said. “We give them a framework and a plan to bring their ideas to life.”