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Saving the Generalist from Extinction

As the number of radiologist fellowships are growing, the need to reexamine the role of the generalist radiologist has become more pressing. According to researchers at Emory University’s department of radiology and imaging services, radiologist sub-specialists are often practicing outside of their specialty.

In their report recently published in Journal of the American College of Radiology, lead author Eric Friedberg, MD, and his colleagues explain that over half of radiologists spend most of their days doing the work of a generalist. “Although opinions exist that general radiologists are best suited for ‘fairly simple outpatient care and possible overnight emergency care and urgent inpatient care,’ practicing entirely within the narrow confines of one’s fellowship sub-specialty area is, in reality, uncommon,” they wrote. 

Even though the demand for sub-specialists is increasing, generalists continue to play a much needed role in facilities in rural areas, teleradiology services, and military and veteran healthcare centers. These kinds of environments require radiologists to work long and unusual hours and to interpret a wide spanning set of images.

Health care centers need the expertise of both generalists and specialists. However, with more radiologists deciding to specialize, it might be difficult to maintain this balance. The authors explain that despite this trend, generalists’ wide spectrum of skills will continue to be in demand. “The successful future of many practices of all types and the specialty as a whole will require ongoing collaborative partnerships that include both general and sub-specialized radiologists,” write the authors. “This review article highlights various scenarios in which general radiologists provide value to different types of radiology practices.”

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