November 05, 2020

The Value and Joys of Pediatric Radiology

By Jennifer Gillman, MD, MSCI, Pediatric Radiology Fellow, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia;  and Maria A. Bedoya, MD, Radiologist, Pediatric Radiology Fellow, Boston Children's Hospital 

Doctor examining pediatric patientSpecializing in pediatric radiology is like having a superpower. The pediatric radiologist often swoops in to save the day, helping to make elusive diagnoses on the most vulnerable members of our society, some of whom are not even able to express how they feel. How do we know this? When communicating exam results to pediatricians, we feel a genuine sense of appreciation from them, which makes coming to work so satisfying.

This collaborative relationship is strong within the pediatric community, and our clinical colleagues are always friendly and respectful. As pediatric radiology fellows, we often have in-depth discussions with the clinical teams at the workstation or in interdisciplinary conferences. We work together to creatively select the best diagnostic tests while reducing radiation and sedation exposure. This also hopefully decreases overutilization of unnecessary imaging when compared to the adult world.

Caring for children is a rewarding and challenging career path, spanning from fetal imaging to young adult imaging. The wide variety of diagnoses from infancy through adolescence creates a stimulating work environment that is endlessly interesting and never boring. Although this may seem overwhelming, the relatively lower volume of pediatric cases allows us to delve deeper into these more complex exams. In addition, The Society for Pediatric Radiology provides a highly active and supportive community, with shared clinical resources for continued medical education and growth throughout our careers.

Pediatric radiology is constantly evolving. The past few years have seen increased use of contrast-enhanced US techniques, efforts to shorten MRI protocols to reduce or eliminate the use of sedation, and initiatives with Child-Life services to improve patient experience. Depending on your personal interests, there are also opportunities to sub-specialize within pediatric radiology, including musculoskeletal imaging, fetal imaging, thoracic/cardiac imaging, neuroradiology, interventional radiology, nuclear medicine or informatics. There are also opportunities to get involved with resident and medical student education, as well as global health initiatives. Keep in mind that nearly one-third of the world’s population is younger than 18 years old, and developing countries tend to have a younger median age.

Pediatric radiology is not just a great subspecialty — it is a passion. Every day it is a privilege to work with such wonderful people to improve the health and wellbeing of children. Now, as we apply for jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, a vast array of opportunities remain available within clinical pediatric radiology, research, and education — whether you are interested in academics or private practice. Best of all, the friends you make along the way in pediatric radiology will last a lifetime. The future of pediatric radiology is bright!