McMaster Medical Radiology: The Program that Studies the Medical Innovations of the Future

In the month of August we had the honor to interview Tracy, a medical radiology undergrad at the McMaster University. This interview is brought to you by Jessica, our Original Content Co-director.

Jessica: What are the admission requirements of your program? What courses did you take as prerequisites to help you prepare for your program?


Tracy: I took the respective high school courses needed; this is listed on the McMaster site or found in the McMaster information booklets that you can find based on your program of interest. I took the following courses.

  • English U

  • Biology U

  • Chemistry U

  • Calculus and Vectors U

  • Advanced Functions U

  • An additional U or M

For the additional course, I took Photography since I thought it would be a good way to enjoy the art outside the other academically rigorous classes.


Jessica: What inspired you to take this path?


Tracy: Primarily, I considered the career prospects. There is a high job demand in this area of study. There have been great advances and research. It can be challenging. These innovations go a long way in understanding and solving medical problems such as cancer.

Moreover, it was my drive to want to help others that interested me in my program. Cliché, I know, but medicine has an incredible impact! It’s very rewarding to see how your care and responsibility can have a lasting impact on others. Also, I wanted to pursue an MD in high school. This was my backup plan in case I changed my mind (which I did) . It’s always important to have a back up plan!


Jessica: What is "a day in your life" looks like?


Tracy: I take 5 courses per term. In the first year, I took mandatory McMaster courses to build your science foundation. The only MedRadsc courses you take introduce you to the different streams. In second year, many of my classmates and I specialize in a stream and start taking your stream specific courses where content becomes less broad. Students take part in labs to build skills on how to interact with patients and use equipment. Communication skills is a very big part of the profession that you have to become accustomed to speaking with patients. Lectures range from 2-3 hours a week. All my lectures were online for the last two years so it was a lot of independent study. My mentality was to finish as many lectures as I could at the beginning of the week and then review at the end of the week. The end of the week I would always have one day where I did not do any school work and went out with friends (work-life balance)


Jessica: Definitely sounds busy! Can you explain more about your day to day in your hospital placement?


Tracy: Most of the time, here is what my schedule would look like

I would have 3 rotations - main floor, portables, fracture clinic (ambulatory care). I would arrive at the hospital at 7:30 or 8:00am depending on where I was working. Most of the time I observed, assisted, and/or independently took x-rays (with a tech watching). I would work for 2h, take a 20 min break, work another 2h, lunch for 40 min, work The last 30 min of shift was allotted to entering accession numbers into your logbook and also to study your image critique images.


Jessica: What new technologies are revolutionizing your field?


Tracy: Here are a few that are noteworthy to mention!


Digital Imaging

It’s not exactly recent but the introduction of digital cassettes/plates have really expedited the process. Many technicians no longer need to process film images in the dark room or use a cassette reader (for CR plates). It can see images right away so you know if you have the results you need right away. It can also post process images - though it’s always best practice to aim to take the best image without post processing


TAVR

This stands for Transcatheter aortic valve replacement. It is a minimally invasive procedure that replaces a defective aortic valve . It’s used for patients with severe aortic stenosis who are not candidates for open heart surgery due to high or intermediate risk


PACS

This technology stands for picture archiving and communication systems. It allows for all images to be stored in one place. It grants access for those who are allowed access to view images wherever whenever


Jessica: How did you learn about these technologies?


Tracy: For digital imaging, I have classes that teach the physics (first and second year) of how digital imaging works and how it is implemented in the field.


For TAV, I have one specific class we take that teaches all the different streams in medical radiation - general x-ray, CT, MRI, ultrasound, radiation therapy, nuclear medicine. The final project of the class requires you to research a technology in your stream and share it with someone else of another stream. This is the one my group researched.


A class is also taught for PACS; it was used for the first time in physics and went in a little more detail in imaging procedures.


Jessica: How often do you work with the mentioned technologies?


Tracy: Digital imaging is the main mode of imaging used in my program. Though in second year physics labs you get to try CR imaging as well and compare the difference with DR. Most (if not all) hospitals use DR imaging


With TAVR, it’s part of interventional radiography thus I won’t be able to work with this advancement unless I specialize in IR.


PACS is used all the time for the storing, sharing, and managing of digital images


Jessica: Great, thanks for sharing! Who inspires you to take opportunities in healthcare?


Tracy: My parents have been really great inspirations. They’ve taught me the importance of education and have always pushed me to learn which resulted in me falling for the sciences. Though they didn’t tell me to pursue healthcare necessarily, they’ve always been supporting my education


As well, I knew pretty early on that I didn’t want to do research and so to me, my only other option with science was healthcare. As I’ve said, going to medical school was a pretty big goal of mine at one point. This field and just healthcare in general is so fascinating to me and I want to learn as much as I can


Jessica: Thanks for sharing! What amazed you about this occupation?


Tracy: How hardworking everyone is! My hospital was severely understaffed and everyone was tired all the time but everyone still put 110% in to ensure that the patients get the care that they deserve.


Also, I found it surprising how much knowledge goes into especially in the hospital, people who come in for an x-ray are definitely not the perfect patients we practice on at school and require more critical thinking to obtain the images we need.


Though we aren’t allowed to diagnose patients, we have to learn the different pathologies which greatly helps with patient care Troubleshooting the equipment is also very important and being able to maneuver the equipment how you want.


Moreover, I’ve come to realize how important this field of study has been to many! Without imaging techs, it would be so much more difficult to diagnose and help patients. Imaging has allowed for a non-invasive approach to figure out what needs to be done for a patient.


Finally, the chance to venture into a variety of topics really astounded me. There are an abundance of specializations within radiography which allows for the perfect ground to learn and experience different aspects of the medical field (without having to go to med school)!


Jessica: It’s been so great hearing from you and all the incredible facts you had to share! I can’t wait to see all that you accomplish in the future!