Name: Francis Wu, M.D.
Education: Washington University in St. Louis BA 2013, Washington University School of Medicine MD 2017
Current Position: Diagnostic Radiology resident, PGY-2 at Saint Louis University
1 | What drew you to radiology?
Radiology is a much more general field than one would expect, which appeals to someone like me who likes knowing something about everything. Radiology requires not just knowing anatomy, but also having deep understanding of various disease processes, as these often correlate with radiographic findings. Interpreting radiology studies is very much akin to puzzle solving as well, which I find enjoyable.
2 | What do you like the most about radiology? The least?
What I like about radiology is that it features a wide range in practice styles – you could pursue a specialty with high amounts of patient contact, such as breast imaging, or work in musculoskeletal imaging which, depending on the center you practice at, can involve a lot of procedural work. The nature of the work also makes it easy to scale up and down your clinical commitments to make room for academic pursuits.
On the other hand, you’re not going to get as much patient contact as other more frontline specialties see, even if you go into breast imaging. Most of your human contact in your day-to-day work will be with other clinicians, which can either be an upside or a downside for you.
3 | When did you first find your passion for teaching and mentoring?
I got my start when one of my organic chemistry professors in college offered me a position as a teaching assistant. I originally had struggled with organic chemistry early as a sophomore, but gained confidence in the subject and grew to enjoy it to the point where I took a graduate level course after finishing my prerequisite courses. My professor asked me if I wanted to channel my enthusiasm into helping others comprehend what is traditionally known as a difficult subject, and I deeply enjoyed my experience to such a degree that I started doing part time tutoring.
4 | As a highly successful academic tutor, what factors do you find most critical to your success in bringing out a student’s best performance?
Everybody processes information in a different fashion – it’s a critical concept to grasp as a teacher. Some people are naturally gifted at comprehending certain concepts, but may struggle with others. Put succinctly, I strongly believe in Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, and I use that theory to try and parse out what kind of thinker my students are and what kind of interests they have. Almost anybody can understand something if it’s conveyed in a language they understand, so analogies become an invaluable tool in translating otherwise foreign ideas using concepts they are otherwise familiar with.
5 | What advice would you give to students interested in radiology?
There isn’t anything specific to radiology that an interested student really has to do, in my opinion. Sub-internships in diagnostic radiology don’t really exist, as the nature of the work is such that it’s difficult to be productive as a medical student, and they’re not required at all to be successful. Most radiology applicants do an internal medicine sub-internship, as this experience helps with your intern year which is usually a preliminary or transitional year.
Rather, someone interested in radiology should just do the general things one would already to to demonstrate interest in a field: become acquainted with physicians in your school’s radiology department, shadow a few of them and/or do the radiology rotation, work on academic research and/or other extracurriculars, and do well in school to become a well rounded candidate.
6 | How much sleep do you get every night? How many hours do you work per week? How many vacation days do you take per year?
I typically average between 6-7 hours of sleep a night, which I find sufficient. I average approximately 50-55 hours a week of work, and my program allows for 3 weeks of vacation each year. These numbers are fairly standard across the board for radiology residents.
7 | How do you maintain your work-life balance?
To be quite frank, I don’t have to do much to maintain work-life balance. Radiology residency is one of the better residencies for maintaining work-life balance, as you rarely exceed 60 hours worked per week, and aside from call, your hours worked are very regular.
In general though, my stance on maintaining work-life balance is that you have to be cognizant of the things that are relevant to you and prioritize them when you allot time in your schedule. Don’t sign yourself up for commitments that you don’t want to do, and remember that a day spent doing nothing is not truly wasted – it could be what you needed to clear your mind and approach the upcoming week without any fatigue.
8 | What do you believe to be the most exciting frontier or new things on the horizon in radiology?
Much hubhub in the field these days has to do with artificial intelligence (AI), which has made incredible strides in the past decade. Some fear artificial intelligence–in particular, machine learning–as a destabilizing force that could threaten the future of radiology and its job market in a similar fashion that CRNAs changed anesthesiology, whereas others see it as another tool that radiologists can adapt and use to automate some aspects of work that are otherwise tedious – in a sense, it could be used to triage studies and make a radiologist more efficient. I can’t say I’m well versed enough in radiology to predict where AI will take us, but I am relatively optimistic about the possibilities it may bring to improve the field.