My Interventional Radiology Shadowing Experience

Samira Shorey, MD Class of 2026

“Honestly, it’s just a fun little blog post! I like keeping track of my experiences, perspective on medicine and specialties on my blog. I wanted to share it with others.”

This Monday, I jumped out of bed with unbridled excitement. I turned on some funky music and started getting ready to shadow an interventional radiologist.

Why was I so excited? Well, I had it in my mind that IR was the perfect specialty for me. It’s radiology + hands on procedures – two things I loved. You could not go wrong with that, I thought.

Dressed in all black scrubs and my short med student white coat, I checked in with the front desk attendant.

“I’m a medical student here to shadow Dr.R”, I said.

She looked at me quizzically and asked me for ID. I could tell she was a bit confused because I had been there a few weeks ago, as a patient. I had gone in to get a gastric emptying study (turned out normal btw).

Funny enough, while I was waiting in an x-ray room for the study to take place, a hospital staff member poked his head in and gave me a detailed report of a patient. I let him know I was actually not a provider but the patient. We both laughed it off. However, I was very flattered that I fit in as a medical provider.

Anyways, back to shadowing experience. A nurse came to walk me to Dr.R’s office. I followed her through the quiet, dimly lit maze of the radiology department until we reached a door with the title ‘Reading Room’. I smiled to myself. I felt an odd sense of peace in the reading room, like I was supposed to be there.

We entered the reading room. I introduced myself to Dr.R as we shook hands. I looked around the dark room. It was filled with double monitored work stations. In front of each station was a male physician in scrubs. There were at least 7 radiologists in that room. I knew IR was a male dominated field so I am not sure why it surprised me to see this in person. So there I was, a petite woman of color, entering this white male dominated space. Did I feel nervous? Did I feel like an imposter?

No, I felt special. I felt like a bad ass. A trailblazer. It was an empowering feeling.

Dr.R invited me to have a seat next to his station. He showed me the days schedule and what sort of scan he was looking over. It was an x-ray of a woman’s hand. She had only half a ring finger due to an accident. She came in complaining of numbness in the area. Today we were going to use IR to explore possible reasons for her numbness. Perhaps there was a clot there? If so, with IR, we could deliver anti-clotting medication directly. How incredible, right?

The procedure he described was going on right now. He led me to the watching station so I could see it going on live. There was a large glass window we watched the procedure through. There were also screens with live x-rays showcasing exactly what the operating physician was doing. He was wiggling a wire through a vessel, trying to reach a tricky part of her hand.

It looks like this!

He nudged it here and there. He pushed it further in and then pulled it out. It took about 30 minutes before he got the wire where he wanted to. It seemed to be a challenging case.

So this is what it’s like, I thought. It’s standing around, watching a live xray, getting the wire where you want it to be. I would go through 5+ years of training after med school to wiggle a wire into the right spot. How did I feel about this? I liked it. Saving lives with minimal incisions. Super cool!

After watching a couple of IR operations, I was able to observe a CT guided lung biopsy. I thought it would be like the other two operations where you are watching X-ray live as the procedure is being done.

However, the fellow did it in a manner I did not expect. The patient was sedated and laying quietly on his stomach. The fellow physician came in and pierced his skin but only a little bit, left the needle in, stepped out, patient was CT scanned and the process was repeated over and over again until physician was happy with the position of the biopsy needle. And then the biopsy was taken.

It looked exactly like this.

What I loved about it all was how calm the environment was. Even during intense procedures or when the reading room got ‘rowdy’, it still felt chill.

Although none of the physicians looked like me, I felt like I could belong. It’s hard to find that feeling of belonging in a space where no one looks like you. I even had a spontaneous conversation with the operating radiologist at one point in which he pulled up a Youtube video of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock (I live under a rock and had no idea this happened, haha).

Exact meme I was shown lol.

So my hunch was right. IR seems to be the perfect fit for me! Of course, just a couple of hours shadowing does not expose me to all parts of IR – I am sure there are things about it I might possibly dislike. Despite this, radiology continues to be the specialty that fits me the most.

Thanks for reading this narrative styled shadowing experience.

See ya next time,

Sami

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