What Is the Radiology Personality?

What’s your radiology personality?

I recently ran into this thread on an online forum about an introverted medical student trying to choose a specialty. The thread referred to this book which contained a chapter declaring the “best-fit” specialty using Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The types including radiology are as follows:

  • ISTP – Otolaryngology (ENT), Anesthesiology, Radiology, Ophthalmology, General practice
  • ESTP – Orthopedic surgery, Dermatology, Family practice, Radiology, General surgery
  • ENFJ – Thoracic surgery, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Ophthalmology, Radiology
  • ENTP – Otolaryngology (ENT), Psychiatry, Radiology, Pediatrics, Pathology

In the comments section, one astute contributor promptly posted the following…

“Radiologists being extroverted? hmm.. lol” – Random person on an internet forum

I found myself unexpectedly baffled between two thoughts: whether to think “of course radiologists can be extroverts,” or to agree with the wise words of this cybernetic stranger.

Has radiology become a profession whose dark rooms attract the recluse, or is it a profession that champions a balanced lifestyle for the outgoing?

Imperfect Measure

Myers-Briggs is, of course,  an incomplete characterization, to say one’s answers to various medically irrelevant questions could predict a best-fit career path is akin to as believing that the specific cosmic arrangement overseeing the sky during one’s birth might predict personality (or best-fit medical specialty).

We also know that radiologists come in all flavors, even as the career may attract some types of personalities more than others.

Big Leaders with Big Personalities

The introvert/extrovert axis leads a MBTI characterization, and it does so for good reason.

In her bestselling book Quiet, Susan Cain highlights the contributions of the humbly productive introverts in all parts of society.  Because the loud gets attention, Cain argues that their opinions are disproportionately weighed, often skewing a conversation that would otherwise benefit from a balanced discussion.

It comes as no surprise that a school hoping to foster leadership tends to unconsciously lean heavily extrovert. Loud voices, big personalities, and inflated egos seemingly fill the quad of Harvard Business School, with the typical class counting “participation” as 50% of your grade.  “Participation” is in part  a function of how well you captivate your audience.  The grading system is constructed not only to favor the confident but also celebrate the loudly, larger-than-life charismatic personalities.  In her book, Cain describes Harvard Business School as the “mecca of extroverts.”


To determine whether it makes sense to pursue a medical specialty by personality types, I turn to a thought experiment.

If we are to plot all the members in a particular profession along the I-E spectrum, we may find a Gaussian distribution or a skewed curve variant.  If we then plot all the members of a different profession, we would end up with another curve centered at a different point.  To the extent that the two curves overlap, we may say that one profession has a similar introvert/extrovert composition as the other, knowing that within each curve lies outliers as well as non-overlapping regions.

That is, one would have be fairly convinced that each specialty’s composition has sufficient non-overlapping regions for a MBTI prediction model to be reasonably predictive.

It’s all Spectral

There is one more dimension to this thought experiment.

We have thus far assumed that the curves would be normal or skewed, but it may not be a Gaussian variant at all.  It may be a curve with long tails where a greater proportion of people live on either end than would be expected by chance alone.

That is, if there is any tendency for a radiology as a profession to select for diversity, for the willingness to welcome the extra-confident, highly vocal  as well as the deeply introspective, creative thinkers.  Perhaps even embracing those who can be both. In the extreme case, in a profession with no predilection for specific personality types, the graph would yield a horizontal line – equal distribution across all points.

In The End

In the end, there is no radiology personality.  As much as we would like to hope that our profession has something to offer all people, the true distribution probably lies somewhere between “by pure chance” and “global mass appeal.”

Rather than being told how we fit in a medical specialty, think the inverse.  Choose radiology not because of an MBTI or a test result.  The profession will mold itself around the radiologist, that there exists room for success for all should we choose to be honest with ourselves.

For the record, my MBTI came out INFJ.

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Howard Chen
Vice Chair for Artificial Intelligence at Cleveland Clinic Diagnostics Institute
Howard is passionate about making diagnostic tests more accurate, expedient, and affordable through disciplined implementation of advanced technology. He previously served as Chief Informatics Officer for Imaging, where he led teams deploying and unifying radiology applications and AI in a multi-state, multi-hospital environment. Blog opinions are his own and in no way reflect those of the employer.

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