When 11 first-year (R1) Diagnostic Radiology (DR) residents began their training in July, our DR program grew to a record 38 trainees. Our largest class of R1s to date were joined by 16 fellows, making academic year 2019-2020 an exceptional one for training program growth at UNC Radiology.

Our programs grow because UNC’s physicians in training know our academic medical center will prepare them well for independent practice. A top-tier institution for residency or fellowship, however, isn’t the only reason the Department’s newest trainees picked UNC Radiology. The enriched curricula and advanced training pathways we offer trainees appealed to our newcomers as competitive candidates. These individuals chose UNC over peer institutions, and their training experience should deliver what uniquely drew them to our programs.

Advanced methods of teaching medical education often explain why sought-after residency and fellowship recruits choose certain institutions. As experiential learning becomes a greater part of progressive medical education, our programs will continue to draw competitive applicants who have experienced the benefits of learning in immersive settings.  Hands-on ultrasound scanning in UNC’s Clinical Skills and Patient Simulation Center (“SIM Lab”) with R1s early in residency, simulated contrast reaction training for residents and fellows in UNC Medical Center’s CT bays, and rapid-fire case interpretation scenarios preparing our rising R2s for independent call are just some of the immersive learning exercises UNC Radiology conducts with trainees. The many UNC School of Medicine hands-on resources we incorporate within our curricula guide our residents and fellows toward self-directed patient care, ultimately preparing them to enter real-world practice maximizing patient safety and health outcomes.

Many of our newcomers want to share the knowledge and skills they acquire in training in low-resource healthcare systems abroad. Like peers that host initiatives reaching areas worldwide lacking imaging expertise and resources, UNC Radiology offers a fast-growing, global health program that appeals to many candidates during recruitment. As our new Director of UNC Global Radiology Director Melissa Culp leads our global health program into a new era, many of our newcomers have set their sights on a global health rotation before graduation to help advance RAD-AID International’s goals of growing the radiological expertise at partnering institutions in Malawi and Kenya.

When rising demand for VIR subspecialty training among DR residents spurred graduate medical education governance to create Interventional Radiology (IR) residency pathways, UNC kept pace. Through our VIR Fellowship Program Director Dr. Bob Dixon’s tireless efforts, we shifted our IR training programs to a new paradigm, replacing our 12-month VIR fellowship with two full-fledged IR residency programs. Dr. Dixon’s work secured ACGME approval for an Integrated IR residency program, followed by an Independent IR residency.

Months into AY 2019-2020, our IR training programs are entering their most dynamic era.  For the first time, our five-year Integrated IR program is training residents at all levels (IR1-IR5). We anticipate further program growth in the 2020 NRMP Match. Our last class of VIR fellows graduates in June 2020, directly preceding our IR Independent program launch in 2020-2021.

From Day 1, our 12-month fellows dive into intensive training on the wide-ranging cases in their chosen subspecialty. For those pursuing a “hybrid” fellowship at UNC Radiology, 12 months of training are fleeting in learning more than one branch of radiology, but the payoff is strong. This academic year, two UNC fellows are splitting their year between training on two subspecialties – Breast Imaging and Abdominal Imaging. This year they will spend six months apiece learning from the diversity of cases treated by two of the Department’s divisions. As they secure their positions in academia or private practice to start their careers, those who pursue hybrid fellowship training at UNC Radiology bring invaluable expertise in two subspecialties to their future employers.

In a new training year, new DR and IR residents adjust to higher-level clinical roles, call duty, and long work weeks, while fellows immerse themselves in training on diverse cases during their final learning stretch. As our new residents and fellows adapt to being part of a physician workforce that UNC Medical Center relies upon to manage its fast-paced imaging workflow, we owe these high-achieving individuals a training experience aligned with the progressive elements of our programs that brought them to UNC.