Allison Borowski, MD, Appointed Associate Program Director for the Diagnostic Radiology Residency

Allison Borowski, MD, assistant professor of radiology and associate program director of the Diagnostic Radiology Residency. 

The Department of Radiology is pleased to announce the appointment of Allison Borowski, MD, assistant professor of radiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), as associate program director for the Diagnostic Radiology Residency.

Dr. Borowski will work closely with program director Dr. Jasnit Makkar and the department's education leadership. "I'm excited to work with this new education committee and our new vice chair of education to improve the residents' experience in the post-COVID-19 era," said Dr. Borowski.

Dr. Borowski joined the department in 2019 and is a member of the Division of Breast Imaging. She is the principal investigator for the Columbia site of the Tomosynthesis Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (TMIST) and was the faculty liaison for Columbia Radiology's first trip to Guyana to provide aid for radiology residents at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

Q & A With Dr. Borowski

What has been your involvement with education so far?

My interests have always been education and international aid, and I've worked at several teaching institutions.

When I came to Columbia two years ago, I was made designated educator for the breast imaging department. During this time, I helped develop a new two-year curriculum with the rest of the breast imagers which includes a comprehensive lecture series incorporating many more case conferences. 

In addition, we shifted the organization of the rotation. Our residents used to focus on reading screening mammography primarily. Now we have them doing biopsies right off the bat. To do a biopsy, they have to go through the patient's mammogram, ultrasound, and MRI; they have to read the oncologist or surgeon notes; and they have to think about why they are doing the biopsy in a specific location. They end up absorbing a lot of information and gaining procedural skills which they can take to other rotations like interventional radiology. We also have them reading diagnostic mammography, which allows them to work out a problem. It's more engaging and it really gets the residents involved.

I'm also very involved with the department's global health program, which I hope will become active again soon.

What have you learned about education along the way?

I was an interventional radiologist for three years in Manhattan. Then, I decided to make a career change and completed a six-month fellowship in breast imaging. Good mentorship was key for me as I found my path in radiology.

In all the teaching institutions I've been involved with, I've been struck by the need for good mentorship. Residents need people they can go to for advice, whether it's fellowship or career advice, advice on how to prepare for call, or advice on what to read. I think in addition to training the residents to be good radiologists, you also need to be open with them and help them to make the best decisions for their future career.

I've also noticed hesitancy to be really hands on in procedures. With my background I'm very comfortable doing procedures, and I try to encourage them to just go for it. Nothing's going to happen to the patient, because we're there watching you. This is the point in your residency to get your confidence and do these things.

What plans do you have for the residency as associate program director?

We're planning to work with all the divisions to develop two-year curriculums for the residents. Most of us learned more by textbooks and lectures, but I think the current generation of residents learns a little differently. So we need to listen to what works for the residents and adjust the curriculum accordingly.

I would also like the department to focus on international work again. We went to Guyana in October of 2019, and what's amazing is that those residents in Guyana have graduated and are radiologists now. My dream would be to have a Columbia-led program in another country and to have our residents be a part of that.

And finally, I want to work on morale. COVID-19 was hard on the residents, and it disrupted their education. They were redeployed; they were doing all these other things that they did not anticipate having to do as radiology residents. They really stepped up to help out the medical community, and we are so proud of them, but it was stressful. Now we're trying to do more team building work, get them together, and really tackle morale issues.

Why should someone choose Columbia for a radiology residency?

Our residents are amazing. They come from all over and have many different backgrounds. Some are just out of medical school, and some have had other careers. I think that diversity creates a really good atmosphere.

Our patient population and the nature of where Columbia is located is also quite beneficial. We have a diverse patient population which means diverse disease processes, and so our residents get to see a huge range of studies. And then there's New York City. It's an amazing place, and if you're going to be able to live here, then live here for your residency.

What's your message to a resident who is starting out this year?

I think the most important thing when starting residency is to find yourself both peer and faculty mentors. The peer mentor, a senior resident, can give you some guidance on what to read, how to prepare for call, how to navigate the system or even the city. Faculty can do this, too, but it can mean more from someone who recently completed their first year of residency.

If you have a particular interest, you should seek out that department and get to know the faculty members. Otherwise, speak to your program director or associate program directory and they can help point you in the direction of someone who might be a good fit. Good mentorship can be very important to the residency experience.