Dan Anderson

It is June, when graduates of all kinds are launched from their classrooms into the professional market. I recently celebrated a friend who earned her PhD at Columbia University. Closer to home, one of the nearby community colleges graduated dozens of students in the radiology field.

It’s quite a time to jump into the workforce. The business model for medical imaging is shifting. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 is taking hold, and there are lots of questions about how to keep up with the evolving technology. So I was particularly moved by the dedication of some of the “young” people I’ve read about in recent days.

In a story on graduation, the Ventura County Star interviewed Dan Voorman, who recently graduated from Moorpark College, Moorpark, Calif. After owning his own business, Voorman went back to college at age 49 to study radiology. Now 52, he enters a dynamic field that’s hungry for quality technicians.

“I was looking for something to go forward into the next phase of my life. It was harder than I thought, really challenging, especially the clinical experience,” Voorman told the newspaper.

Students were required to work 2,000 hours in hospitals and clinics to gain practical experience in advance of their graduation.

Voorman will have a lot more classes ahead of him. And that may well present a challenge, as it does for radiologists across the country.

Radiology residents spend about 15% of their average annual salary on education, according to a recent study conducted by radiologists from New Jersey Medical School in Newark, NJ. For example, an Armed Forces Institute of Pathology course in radiologic pathology cost $3,441.52, including tuition, room, board, and travel. Stephan R. Baker, MD, who helped author the study, said 44% of the cost was paid for by the residents themselves. Coupled with review courses and board expenditures, total out-of-pocket costs for residents were $7,515, about 15% of a senior resident’s average salary.

“I’ve spent 27 years as a program director, and I realized that residents have to pick up their own costs for a lot of things,” Baker told the American Roentgen Ray Society. “There is a debt problem that needs to be addressed. There are many residents that are in debt from college and medical school. Maybe we should consider reducing the initial board exam payment and increasing it during recertification when they have a higher salary so that they don’t have to endure such high costs as residents.”

This next generation of medical imaging professionals, be they fresh out of school or starting a new path late in life, need to know they’re worth an investment. With rapid changes to technology and procedures, and medical imaging continuing a shift from diagnosis to preventive care, the professionals doing the work deserve a funding boost. They’ve already shown their dedication. Earmarking some financial resources for them will only help a hospital or clinic streamline, keep up on new trends and techniques, and present the most professional lineup to patients.

Welcome the new members of the field; give some visible pledge to keeping them. That would really be worth some pomp and circumstance.

Dan Anderson, editorial director;