Interest in nuclear medicine research declines among residents

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A group of Boston specialists interviewed a group of current US radiology residents — those who pursue nuclear medicine and those who don’t — to identify key factors in their career choices. Research was the least appealing aspect of nuclear medicine, while commonly encountered clinical pathology was the most appealing, they found.


“The growing demand for [nuclear medicine/molecular imaging] physicians in the near future is expected – therefore, the successful recruitment of talented and enthusiastic trainees into the field is a high priority,” wrote corresponding author Dr. Bashar Kako, clinical researcher in radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and these partner’work.


Although the number of nuclear medicine trainees and training programs has declined over the past 15 years, the trend has stabilized or increased slightly over the past four years, with a total of 84 trainees (residents and fellows ) in 2020-2021, according to the authors.


Advances in nuclear medicine – US approvals of the F-18 DCFPyL and gallium-68 PSMA-11 radiotracers for use in patients with prostate cancer, for example – are increasing the use of diagnostic nuclear medicine and therapeutics in clinical practice, and new cultures of physicians will be needed to manage the increased volume, the authors wrote.


In this context, the researchers sought to identify the key factors likely to attract more trainees to the field. They sent an online survey containing multiple-choice questions to all diagnostic radiology residency programs in the United States between February 21, 2021 and April 4, 2021. They received responses from 198 residents.


More than half of trainees (58.6%) reported having discovered nuclear medicine for the first time in medical school and 27.3% discovered the specialty during their radiology residency, with no significant difference between trainees specialized in nuclear medicine and those who were not, according to the results. .


Commonly encountered clinical pathology was the most attractive aspect of nuclear medicine (29.4%) for those entering the field, which is particularly different from the response of those who do not specialize in nuclear medicine ( 9.8%), according to the researchers.


On the other hand, respondents indicated that research associated with nuclear medicine was overall one of the least motivating aspects to pursue a career. A higher proportion of respondents specializing in the field (35.3%) said that research was the least attractive aspect, compared to those who did not specialize.


“While scientific research and the discoveries of [nuclear medicine/molecular imaging] are often touted as one of its most exciting areas…research was surprisingly the least appealing aspect,” the band wrote.


Additionally, a higher quality experience during a nuclear medicine rotation, including improved teaching and instruction, was found to be the most important factor in attracting trainees to the field (38.9%), according to responses to the survey.


Ultimately, it is unclear whether the lack of interest in research is due to the fields and topics available, its availability in the institutions of the trainees, the lack of free time to pursue it, or a greater interest in the aspects nuclear medicine clinics, the authors wrote.


Further exploration is needed to further clarify these questions, they wrote.


However, based on this analysis of survey responses, there may be greater interest in improving exposure to nuclear medicine during medical school and providing more hands-on clinical experiences during residency training. they suggest.


“It can widen the pool from which the future [nuclear medicine/molecular imaging] trainees drift, whether through diagnostic radiology or otherwise,” Kako and colleagues concluded.

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