ACR Bulletin

Covering topics relevant to the practice of radiology

Supporting the Cause During COVID-19

Many residents have been redeployed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting them is critical.
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You have to show the entire time that everyone’s safety is really your first priority.

—Dana H. Smetherman, MD, MPH, FACR
July 01, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has required many radiologists to be flexible as imaging slowed down and COVID-19 patients rose. Residents in particular have had to wear many hats as they are redeployed to different departments and roles. The Radiology Leadership Institute® (RLI) recently held a virtual town hall, “Leadership Town Hall: Leading in Times of Crisis,” during which several radiology leaders shared what roles residents played during the pandemic — and how important it is to prioritize their care.

At Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York, residents went wherever they were needed. Residents often went to clinical floors first; however, if there was a need, residents were redeployed to the intensive care unit (ICU), where they worked under the supervision of intensivists and other medical team members, explained J. Jacob Kazam, MD, vice chair for clinical operations at Weill Cornell Medicine. Some of the residents also went to regional hospitals that needed help. “I’m in awe of the residents that are redeployed — I think our patients are lucky to have them,” said Kazam. Other leaders noted that their residents had also been redeployed to other departments. “A third to a half of our residents have been deployed to the frontline,” noted Judy Yee, MD, FACR, chair of the ACR Colon Cancer Committee and professor and chair of the department of radiology at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y. 

Although many residents volunteered to be redeployed, each leader agreed that during a crisis it is important to look out for the residents and advocate on their behalf. “You have to show the entire time that everyone’s safety is really your first priority,” said Dana H. Smetherman, MD, MPH, FACR, chair of the ACR Commission on Breast Imaging and associate medical director in the department of radiology at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. Kazam shared how his leadership advocated for shorter deployments after his hospital required four-week deployments for residents. “It starts to become unfair when certain healthcare providers are not doing the same amount of work as others during a crisis,” Kazam said. Fearing that the residents would be overburdened, program directors pushed back and asked for two-week deployments. Their request was granted. 

I let them know that if they have a need — whether it be for personal protective equipment (PPE) or anything else — they have a direct line to the chair.

—Judy Yee, MD, FACR

Mahmud Mossa-Basha, MD, associate professor of radiology, vice chair of clinical operations, and chief of radiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, also advocated on residents’ behalf. Mossa-Basha’s health system spans several hospitals and outpatient imaging centers. “When the option of working from home became a possibility, a number of sections were going to leave the trainees to cover the reading room,” he explained. “That was not the message we wanted to send to trainees, frontline technicians, and non-radiology physicians.” Mossa-Basha and others worked hard to secure a policy that spanned each institution and was fair to residents.

Advocating for your residents also means checking in on their emotional health, said Yee, noting that many of her residents were anxious about being on the frontline. “A lot of my time is filled with virtual meetings, but I spend so much more working directly with the faculty,” she added. Yee sends an email with updates to the entire department twice a week and checks in personally with each resident. “I let them know that if they have a need — whether it be for personal protective equipment (PPE) or anything else — they have a direct line to the chair,” Yee noted. “I think it’s important to check in when a lot of our regular meetings have been canceled.”

This article is the fifth of a five-part series in which the Bulletin will delve into key topics covered during RLI’s Leadership Town Hall: Leading in Times of Crisis.


Author Meghan Edwards, Freelance Writer, ACR Press