Welcome to our first post on #medstudent #elective experiences in interventional radiology #IRad. Electives are an amazing way to experience what a career in IR is like, as well as gain some hands on experience in the field. Today we catch up with Indrajeet Mandal, a foundation doctor in the Oxford Deanery. Indra completed a clinical elective at the National Institutes of Health in the USA.
What was your elective rotation?
I spent 4 weeks in IR at the National Institutes of Health in the USA in the summer of 2019.
How did you organise the placement?
I applied for the placement through the NIH clinical electives program. They have an online application portal where you submit your application and your documents. It is free to apply for, and there are no elective fees. However, there are a lot of documents required, and some of these will have a cost associated with them e.g. health checks.
What kind of experiences did you have?
Overall, I had a truly amazing elective experience out there! The day started relatively early - I would get in at around 7.30 each day and look through the cases for the day, review the clinical history and have a look at the images. We went through these as a team around 8am, and then once everybody was ready, we saw the first patient and got cracking with the cases for the day.
The elective itself was very hands on, and I got to scrub in for each of the cases. Each day would run two rooms, and I was the only medical student there. This meant that I got involved with a wide variety of procedures, ranging from the more everyday lines, ports and drains to tumour ablation and embolisation. I was really fortunate to have great seniors who were keen to teach, and I was able to learn the basics of ultrasound, how to put in central lines, peripheral lines and drains as well as how to discuss consults with other physicians & the clinical aspects of interventional radiology.
Additionally, NIH is a research-intensive setting, and I got to see some really cutting edge developments in IR. I also got the privilege to meet patients with very rare conditions that I had only ever read about in textbooks.
How was the city/area as a whole?
The area around NIH is on the outskirts of the Washington DC Metro area. It is a lovely sub-urban area with plenty of restaurants and easy access to the city centre via metro. Washington DC is a beautiful city to visit in the summer months, and one month was not nearly enough time to explore everything it had to offer.
One thing that I particularly interesting was to see all the US government buildings in real life. Until then, I had only really seen these on TV shows until that point. There were often protests outside the white house, and I really felt like I was in the centre of world politics. It is all happening there.
What funding is available for elective students?
The RCR Elective Bursary offers some funding for medical students to go on elective. It won't cover all your costs, but every little helps!
Any other advice?
Get stuck in, enjoy yourself. IR is a fantastic specialty, and almost every consultant I have met loves their job and is happy to share this enthusiasm with juniors. If you are looking for an elective with a range of cases and good hands-on exposure, then seriously do think about doing one in IR. Even if you are thinking about surgery, there is a lot of overlap with IR, and understanding what IR can do and getting a basic grasp of imaging will be invaluable for your career as a surgical trainee.