What is a Radiologist?

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Did you know that the person most people think is their radiologist is actually the technologist? Techs are the ones who set you up in the imaging machine and operate the machinery to take the images. A radiologist is the one reading the image.

For this reason, you may never meet your radiologist face to face—but they are are still vital to your care. At UVA, our radiologists are highly specialized medical doctors (MDs) that are dedicated to making sure you receive the best possible diagnosis and health care treatment. In order to become a sub-specialized radiologist they went to medical school, completed a four-year residency in radiology, and then completed a one or two year specialized fellowship.

What Does a Radiologist Do?

A radiologist is a doctor who works behind the scenes to interpret medical images in order to diagnose and treat diseases and injuries. Radiologists use images from many different types of imaging examinations (e.g. X-rays, CT, MRI, ultrasound, PET, nuclear imaging, etc.). With these images, they recommend the next steps in your care, whether that be for more exams or for treatment.

A radiologist also determines which of the many types of imaging exams should be used. They then help the referring physicians select the best forms of treatment. The  radiology reports they create are essential for other doctors involved in your care. Some of our radiologists, known as interventional radiologists, can even use imaging guidance to perform minimally invasive procedures that replace conventional surgery.

An Image of a Breast Radiologist reading a mammogram.

Why Are Radiologists Key to Your Care?

Radiology is the means by which doctors get an inside view of your body. It is how they understand what is going on within you and develop both your diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, having a qualified radiologist is crucial to the quality of your health care.

“The explosion in knowledge and technology in modern medicine has completely transformed the concept of clinical diagnosis and treatment as it was practiced before,” said Director of Ultrasound, Dr. Rachita Khot.

“These changes in knowledge, along with the advent of modern imaging tools, have made [radiology and medical imaging] the definitive diagnostic tool for many diseases, as well as a very important role in monitoring treatment and predicting outcomes.”

Specialized, accredited radiologists deliver the best diagnosis quickly. Most people end up in a hospital at some point in their lives. When they do, they will likely need a radiologist’s services whether they know it or not.

“Most, if not all, patients interact with radiology in one way or another either in the process of disease screening, diagnosis, or intervention and follow up​,” added Dr. Khot.

The UVA radiology team stands outside the UVA Health System Hospital

What Makes a UVA Radiologist Especially Qualified?

At UVA, all of our radiologists have completed fellowship training. A fellowship is an additional one to two years of highly specialized medical education in a sub-specialty area of radiology such as abdominal (chest, abdomen, or pelvis) or musculoskeletal (muscles, bones, and joints) imaging.

Having trouble understanding why a fellowship would be so important? Imagine that your car is having a major problem with its engine, and you have the choice between two mechanics. The first mechanic is very knowledgeable in diagnosing and repairing all types of vehicles. The second mechanic completed the same training as the first mechanic. But he also completed an in-depth apprenticeship studying how to diagnose and repair the specific make of your car. Which mechanic would you want to take your car to?

Clearly the second mechanic is an expert in the make of your car. Likewise, doctors who study images of just one part of the body become experts in interpreting those images. That is the value of a fellowship-trained radiologist.

You Have a Choice.

Most people don’t realize that, when it comes to where to go for their imaging examination, they have a choice. When your physician recommends you have a medical imaging exam, you can suggest where it takes place. Talk with your doctor about why you want to have your imaging done at a specific place. After all, you two share a goal: making sure you receive the best health care available.

At the end of the day, however, the final choice about where to go is yours. Medical imaging is at the center of modern healthcare. It’s worth taking the time to make sure you know which option will give you the highest quality images read by specialized doctors.

The UVA Health System is dedicated to bringing you the best care. You can learn more about Radiology and Medical Imaging at UVA here. You can also learn more about radiologists and the work they perform from the American College of Radiology or this website for radiology patients.

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