Radiology is seeing a resurgence of interest from medical students picking the specialty in the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). While radiology’s popularity is at historically high levels, the new analysis shows how vulnerable the field is to macro-economic trends in healthcare.
Radiology’s popularity has always ebbed and flowed. In general the field is seen as one of the more attractive medical specialties due to the perception that it combines high salaries with lifestyle advantages. But there have been times when medical students shunned radiology.
The new paper offers insights into these trends. Published in Radiology by Francis Deng, MD, and Linda Moy, MD, the paper fleshes out an earlier analysis that Deng posted as a Twitter thread after the 2023 Match, showing that diagnostic radiology saw the highest growth in applicants to medical specialties over a three-year period.
Deng and Moy analyze trends in the Match over almost 25 years in the new study, finding…
- The 2023 Match in radiology was the most competitive since 2001 based on percentage of applicants matching (81.1% vs. 73.3%)
- 5.9% of seniors in US MD training programs applied to diagnostic radiology in the 2023 Match, the highest level since 2010
- Fewer radiology residency slots per applicant were available in 2023 compared to the historical average (0.67 vs. 0.81)
Interest in radiology hit its lowest levels in 1996 and 2015, when the number of applicants fell short of available radiology residency positions in the Match. It’s perhaps no surprise that these lows followed two major seismic healthcare shifts that could have negatively affected job prospects for radiologists: the “Hillarycare” healthcare reform effort in the early 1990s and the emergence of AI for healthcare in the mid-2010s.
Hillarycare never happened, and Deng and Moy noted that outreach efforts to medical students about AI helped reverse the perspective that the technology would be taking radiologists’ jobs. Another advantage for radiology is its early adoption of teleradiology, which enables remote work and more flexible work options – a major lifestyle perk.
The new paper provides fascinating insights that support why radiology remains one of medicine’s most attractive specialties. Radiology’s appeal could even grow, given recent studies showing that work-life balance is a major priority for today’s medical students.