JTI Blog

Current events in cardiopulmonary radiology, updates about the journal’s web site features, and links to other web sites of interest to cardiopulmonary radiologists.

Monday, March 5, 2012

T4T by Jonathan Chung: Mentoring Interview with Sanjeev Bhalla
To follow up my previous blog entry on mentorship, I thought it would be fun to interview one of my mentors.  Dr. Sanjeev Bhalla is currently an Associate Professor, Chief of the Cardiothoracic Section, Co-Chief of the Body CT and Emergency/Trauma sections, and the Assistant Radiology Residency Program Director at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (Washington University School of Medicine).  His skills as a radiologist and charisma are admired throughout the hospital.  When I was a medical student, it was natural to want to be like him, and he is one of the big reasons I chose radiology as my specialty.



1. What do you like most about your everyday work?


Two things.  The camaraderie of working with staff, residents, and consultants who are knowledgeable about radiology and life outside of radiology.  They make the day fun whether we are discussing an interesting case or an iPad app that has changed their life.  The other is the continual learning of new things.  Every day I learn something new.  I never feel stuck in a rut.  


2. Aside from immediate family, which mentors have influenced you the most in your career?


For me, the 3 greatest mentors have been Stuart Sagel, Harvey Glazer, and Fernando Gutierrez.  Each imparted in me their own unique ways of approaching radiology: SSS- the practical, cutting edge chest radiologist who always led by example; HSG- the gentle, compassionate MD who has a great eye; and FRG- the cardiac guru who manages to bring the elegance of his tango into radiology.


3. Which of your personal attributes were most important in reaching your long-term goals?


A tough one. I think the biggest has been the desire to always want to work to get better.  As long as I feel like I am moving forward, I don’t mind long hours or hard work.


4. If given the opportunity, what would you have done differently in your career?


I think I would have avoided administrative responsibilities in my first few years so I could work on building up clinical, research, and grant writing skills.  I also would have gotten involved with our subspecialty society (STR) earlier.  I was a third year faculty when I first started attending.  The (subspecialty) groups tend be very supportive and the meetings very educational.  I think it is in the interest of new graduates to become active in their subspecialty society from early on.


5. Undoubtedly, residents have asked for exceptions to be made in special circumstances (e.g. extra time-off to present at meetings, more time for research, a leave of absence).  How should a resident approach their program director (PD) to maximize the chances that their special requests are met?


As an assistant program director, I deal with these issues frequently.  My biggest suggestion is approach the PD honestly and early.  Nothing a resident is going through hasn’t been experienced by someone prior.  As an assistant PD, my greatest triumphs have been helping a resident navigate through a hard time only to find out that they have become a phenomenal radiologist (and person).  When a resident comes to me with a problem and is genuine, we can usually work through it.  When they are trying to game the system, they are usually found out.


6. Which attributes are most important to you when selecting radiology residents/fellows for MIR?  In your experience, are these the same traits, which correlate with future success in academic radiology?


I am only tangentially involved with selection, but I think the biggest question we ask: Would I want to work with this person for 8-10 hours?  The strength of the answer from “absolutely” to “I would rather shoot myself” determines their place in the ranking.  I think we value a strong work ethic and a deep personal ethic.  These are attributes that are hard to teach and tend to make successful radiologists.  The academic radiologist is the one who is into sharing whether it be cases, teaching points, personal time, or advice.


7. If you could provide one general tip or trick for every radiology resident in the US, what would that be?


Junior resident tip: You will get out of residency what you put in.  If you are hard working and eager to throw yourself in, the staff will be eager to teach and work hard as well.


Senior resident tip: Meditation in stressful situations is key and I suggest the mantra “SHLART”: sarcoid, hemangioma, lymphoma, amyloid/aneurysm, radiation and TB.  If confronted with a challenging case in life or in a case conference, think “SHLART.”


On a more meaningful note, follow your heart. Don’t choose a fellowship or job purely based on perceptions of job market or salary.  When you enjoy it, you are not working.