July 14, 2021

Reflections on the Importance of Relationships

By Mohan J. Narayanan, MD

I recently graduated resident from Methodist Healthcare/University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, TN. We are a small residency program that works with teams at many hospitals in the Memphis area. As I finished up my time there, I was reflecting upon my training experience. Our program does not have any fellows, so the residents get early experience in advanced imaging and procedures commensurate with their level of confidence as a resident, as well as the level of confidence attendings feel for them.

I have been thinking about all of the modalities and services that I have rotated through over the last four years, but the thoughts that keep recurring in my mind are those about my attendings, technologists and staff with whom I have interacted during my residency.

Our residency is like a small family. We are sort of “adopted” into the family, and our attendings impress upon us the important aspects of radiology and clinical medicine. Part of the maturation process is learning to navigate different personalities and people, while communicating with different teams on a day-to-day basis.

In the era of remote reading, we cannot always sign out cases in person with our staff, but our teams are available to us 24/7 not just for clinical questions. What made my experience special are the bonds I formed with individuals.

Not long ago (for some maybe a little longer), these attendings were in our same position. They carried the same excitement, curiosity, camaraderie and anxiety that comes with the territory of being a radiology resident. I have had genuine, interesting interactions with almost every single one of them. Sharing those experiences has enriched my life and my time in Memphis.

I have been fortunate to develop friendships with many of the attendings, technologists, my co-residents, custodians and transporters at various hospitals. Even on days when I may not have been very excited to work or something from my personal life was weighing on my mind, just having a friendly face to interact with or sitting down with an attending for coffee or lunch with a technologist, made that day so much better.

From my perspective, relationships may matter just as much as learning radiology, if not more! People will receive different types of training in different places, but the opportunities to develop lasting bonds are limited. I encourage everyone to make the effort to explore those relationships. You may find that the attending you are nervous about staffing your cases with, will become your faculty mentor and friend, or that the technologists who seem to have a set friend group, welcome you into their lives. You may be present for the breaking of bad family news or good news about academic and personal achievement. You could be part of these very special moments.

Radiology is difficult, but the relationships that I have formed have made my last four years significantly easier and better. I look forward to going to work every day, knowing that I will be able to spend time with friends and learn (from every direction) in a positive, safe environment.

My anatomy professor from Louisiana State University School of Medicine, Dr. William Swartz, used to always say, “Anatomy is about three things: relationships, relationships, relationships!”

I will echo Dr. Swartz’s words, and say that life is also about those three things. You will enrich your life by developing relationships with everyone who supports your success. You may experience a hierarchy in learning, but no person is above or below you. If you are open to it, and you look, you will find friends everywhere.

Congratulations to the residency class of 2021, and if you ever need a friend or person to listen, drop me a line. Many have done the same for me over the years, and it is an honor and a privilege to be there for my colleagues, juniors, staff, attendings, friends and whoever else seeks out that relationship.