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  • The Survey says: Your Hobbies are Rad

    Radiologists share some of the ways they unwind and spend their time when away from the reading room. By Stephanie Ewing

    August 1, 2017

    Heike E. Daldrup-Link, MD, PhD, spends her free time hiking in the beautiful mountains of northern California
    Tugba Akinci D’Antonoli, MD, fell in love with Roman architecture when she moved to Rome from Istanbul, Turkey, in 2016, and now studies architecture to relax.
    Firas Farhat, MD, often goes hiking on the weekend. “Hiking in broad daylight with friends and interacting with people balances things for me.”
    Photography is just one of the hobbies that help Eric M. Baumel, MD, explore his creativity. “Learning to see through the camera is a process of continual improvement. Composing an image allows you to show how you see the world.”

    As radiology continues to evolve in the 21st century, hobbies help radiologists manage the stresses of their work. It is easy to write off hobbies as trivial pursuits compared to the life and death consequences of practicing medicine, but hobbies may help radiologists feel healthier, happier and more productive.

    Respondents of a recent RSNA survey think so. Twenty-five radiologists and trainees from around the globe responded to the survey, distributed through social media in May, and shared thoughts about their hobbies — everything from singing and samba dancing to crocheting and cooking.

    Of the radiologists surveyed, 22 out of 25 said they believe their hobbies benefit their work as radiologists through improved focus and concentration, renewed energy, better perspective and improvements to their overall physical and mental well-being.

    Creative pursuits such as art, photography, writing and music were the hobbies most frequently listed by respondents, and research supports the perception that these hobbies improve radiologists’ on-the-job performance.

    According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, engaging in creative activities outside of work was positively associated with increased feelings of mastery and relaxation, as well as increased creativity while at work.

    When he is not in the reading room, Ramin Abrahim, MD, a body and orthopedic imaging radiologist at Washington Radiology Associates in Washington, DC, explores the world around him through colorful, imaginative abstract paintings and photography.

    “Creative work gives me the sense of freedom from structure that balances my being. In art, for me there is no penalty for making a mistake. That allows me to take risks and push the envelope with my creativity,” said Dr. Abrahim.

    Slavica Sotirovic-Senicar, MD, head of CT Diagnostics, Centre of Radiology, Clinicale Centre Vojvodina in Novi Sad, Serbia, paints furniture for herself and her friends and enjoys reading.

    “My hobbies are relaxing, creative — pure joy! Sometimes, when I paint, I brainstorm about some of my radiology cases. Hobbies help you ‘reset’ your mind,” Dr. Sotirovic-Senicar said.

    Survey respondents also indicated that their hobbies not only benefited them mentally, but physically. More than one-third of respondents’ hobbies focused on physical activity, including yoga, walking, dancing and badminton.

    Respondents said these physical activities energized them, helped them clear their heads and counteracted the often sedentary nature of radiology.

    Firas Farhat, MD, radiology resident at Lebanese University, hikes on weekends and finds the outdoors particularly refreshing.

    “For someone who works in a confined, dark place for long hours sitting in front of a computer screen, hiking in broad daylight in nature with friends and interacting with people balances things for me,” Dr. Farhat said.

    Other survey respondents agreed. “Cycling complements my work physically and mentally. My attitude reflects onto my patients, which reassures them,” wrote one radiologist.

    Aside from creative and athletic pursuits, other hobbies help radiologists learn and think about the world in different ways.

    Tugba Akinci D’Antonoli, MD, a fellow in thoracic radiology research at A. Gemelli Hospital at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, Italy, fell in love with Roman architecture when she moved to Rome from Istanbul, Turkey in 2016.

    “During the weekdays, after long and tiring work hours, I studied Roman architecture to relax. During the weekends, I followed the footsteps of emperors on Palatine Hill, fishermen in Ostia and traders in Pompeii,” Dr. D’Antonoli said. “Knowing patterns will help you understand either ancient Roman structures or diseases.”

    Other hobbies more directly impact radiologists’ work. Eric M. Baumel, MD, co-founder of Digital Imaging Diagnostics and founder of Softcode Systems LLC, was interested in computers since college, but taught himself app development when he could not easily access frequently Googled radiology reference material on his smartphone. He developed the app, Radiology Toolbox, which has been downloaded more than 80,000 times.

    “Technology and radiology both are interesting because they’re always changing, and radiology is on the cutting edge of technology,” Dr. Baumel said.

    Also an accomplished photographer, Dr. Baumel has studied with internationally known photographers. “Photography is more than writing with light,” he said. “It’s sharing slices of time.”

    This different kind of thinking and relating to the world is valuable, not just to improve radiologists’ sense of well-being, but to help them resist symptoms of burnout in a rapidly changing field. A 2016 Medscape survey, discussed in the June 2016 issue of RSNA News, found that 50 percent of radiologists reported feeling symptoms of burnout, including loss of enthusiasm for work, increased cynicism and a low sense of personal accomplishment.

    “Hobbies are vital,” Dr. Baumel said. “If I didn’t have outside interests, it would be difficult to maintain enthusiasm while the volume and complexity of cases and financial pressures of practice continue to increase, as interactions with clinicians have decreased.”

    Though it can be difficult to find time for avocational pursuits when work and family demands on time are already high, survey respondents agreed it is important to make room for hobbies.

    As a busy pediatric radiologist and researcher, Heike E. Daldrup-Link, MD, PhD, professor of radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, makes the most of her time outside the office by hiking in the beautiful mountains of northern California with her husband, family, friends and colleagues. “Sometimes, work responsibilities must have priority. At other times, we have to make time to refuel and rewind, which is in the best interest of our work environment,” she said.

    Radiologist, painter and photographer Dr. Abrahim agrees. “I believe everyone has a creative side,” he said. “Nurturing and exercising that will bring balance to your life. We only live once; don’t find excuses why you can’t be creative. Just do it.”

    Heike E. Daldrup-Link, MD, PhD and husband.

    Heike E. Daldrup, MD, PhD, skis in her downtime.


    Ramin Abrahim, MD, pushes the envelope with his creativity through colorful abstract paintings like, “Optimism Defeats Despair” (above).

    The painting, “Cuba,” by Ramin Abrahim, MD

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