Patient detective

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 February, 2008, 12:00am

It's not unusual for a radiologist to read thousands of images during the course of a normal day, says Gladys Lo Mei-ying of the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital

I joined the ranks of my family members in becoming a radiologist with Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital where I have worked intermittently during an 18-year period.

I'm from Hong Kong but I went to medical school in the United States.

I attended both UC Berkley and UCLA School of Medicine. I did my internship at UCLA Medical Centre.

It seemed a natural thing for me to enter medicine as most of my family members have been involved in it for a couple of generations.

I was visiting my family in Hong Kong during Christmas one year when my brother-in-law asked me to fill in for someone at work. I worked for a couple of weeks and really enjoyed it.

Before that, I had worked for a large radiology group in the Silicon Valley, California for nine years. This started me thinking about returning to Hong Kong since my heart is really here. I was able to make the move in 2004.

Now, as the radiologist-in-charge of the department of diagnostic and interventional radiology at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, I work with eight other radiologists.

On a normal working day, I arrive at the hospital around 9am and start by checking the schedule to see how busy the department will get.

Some days I need to attend meetings or teach medical students. Every day I read 30 to 50 examinations or cases. Each examination can involve from one to 2,000 images, depending on the scanning method - plain film, ultrasound, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging - and which part of the body is scanned. It is not unusual for a radiologist to read thousands of images every day. Because a radiologist is really a 'doctor's doctor', I rarely see patients. However, I'm frequently on the phone to other doctors, explaining the results of a study.

Being a radiologist is like being a detective. We have to interpret what we see and figure out what is causing the patient's symptoms. It's exciting because we get actively involved in the decision-making process, helping to decide what treatment is best for patients.

We also need to be able to multitask, because we are constantly interrupted. I can be reading a film when I get a phone call, then a technician may come in and want me to check a study. So being personable is an important quality for a radiologist.

Even though I rarely see patients, I interact with clinicians and other medical personnel all the time.

We also need to be analytical and have a keen pair of eyes as we have to be able to see subtle abnormalities in the images we are viewing.

In addition to reading reports, I may have to do a procedure, which is one of the times when I do need to interact with patients.

I think being a radiologist is a very suitable profession for women. I don't have to make ward rounds on weekends, so I can spend time with my family. However, we do have to share being on call.

Radiology is interesting and challenging because you have to be familiar with different diseases and different parts of the body. The most enjoyable part of my job is making the correct diagnosis.