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“Radiology is top choice for aspiring doctors,” reads the headline on a story published Sunday in the Times of India.

Why is radiology the most popular specialty among medical students in India? Money—at least if radiologists are able to run their own clinics, the story says:

Senior radiologists emphasize that in a salaried position, radiologists would never be able to recover their investment. But the prospect of starting their own scanning centres is a big draw.

The story quotes the head of a Mumbai-based medical college (without identifying either the educator or the college by name) as saying, “An MRI doesn’t cost less than 10,000 rupees. Do even 10 MRIs a day, you can earn 100,000 rupees.” Ten thousand rupees equals about $158. According to the World Bank, annual per capita income in India, as of 2012, was $1,489.

The Times said a postgraduate seat in radiology at a medical school can command a capitation fee of up to 40 million rupees, or $631,621. A capitation fee—an under-the-table surcharge required for admission to an educational institution— is illegal but common in India. The country has a population of more than 1.2 billion people but only 268 medical colleges offering postgraduate degrees in radiology.

“Out of 49,418 medical students across India, only 688 get to do radiology every year,” said L. P. Thangavelu, MBBS, president of the Tamil Nadu chapter of the Indian Medical Association.

At the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, an extremely selective group of public medical colleges, “radiology has been the most sought-after course for almost a decade now,” said Rakesh Yadav, MBBS, MD, DM, subdean for academics.

The newspaper cited the case of a Bangalore radiologist whose parents six years ago paid a 15 million rupee ($236,348) capitation fee to allow him to pursue a master’s degree in radiology. Within three years, their son repaid the money. His thriving imaging center in Bangalore, which turns into a teleradiology service for U.S. hospitals at night, makes 800,000 rupees ($12,605) a month.

Radiology offers other lures besides money, according to the newspaper: “Another draw is the absence of night calls and beepers going off at odd hours. Students who sign up for the course are said to be on the ROAD to happiness, an acronym highlighting radiology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology, and dermatology, all specialties assuring a balanced lifestyle, and offering good money for the least taxing work.”

Sound familiar?

* * *

A California radiation oncologist accused of stealing American College of Radiology cancer research funds shows up late for his bail hearing but avoids jail. For details, see our Facebook page.

Related CME seminar (up to 42.5 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UCSF Radiology Review: COMPREHENSIVE IMAGING

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