Connie Liou, MD, Third-Year DR/IR Resident
Music is healing, but I wanted to do more for these patients.
When Connie Liou looks back on her path to medicine, she credits her parents—both immigrants from Taiwan—for instilling the discipline it takes to become a physician. Then there was her older brother, an oculoplastic surgeon, who paved the way with his interest in science and medicine.
And then there was the violin. "I also found medicine through music," she explains.
Liou began playing the violin at age six, and it was her main activity throughout her school years. Many times, she found herself performing in a nursing home or an assisted living center. "I would meet the residents, and we'd talk about the music and also about why they were in the rehab center," she says. Each time she played, she could see how grateful the residents were.
"Music is healing," she realized. "But I wanted to do more for these patients."
Liou attended Brown University's eight-year Program in Liberal Medical Education, continuing to play in orchestras throughout the combined undergraduate and medical school program. When it came time to choose a specialty, she didn't have any particular direction except what she'd learned from playing the violin. "I knew I wanted to work with my hands," she explains.
She also knew she didn't want the lifestyle of a surgeon. An interventional radiology interest group panel caught her attention early in her medical school training, and eventually, she decided to come to Columbia for an interventional radiology rotation. Those four weeks solidified Liou's decision to apply to Columbia. "I felt this sense of dedication to teaching," she says. "They could have let me hide in a corner, but everyone was very invested in teaching me. I think it comes from loving their job."
She was sold on interventional radiology, but she still wasn't sure about the diagnostic radiology side of the specialty. "I had a preconceived notion that radiologists work in a dark room, not interacting with anyone," she says. "I worried about not talking to patients." During rotations she watched diagnostic radiologists talk to clinicians and even do procedures. "And I thought, this will be fine."
It's more than fine, she's discovered, now that she has been immersed in diagnostic radiology for more than a year as a resident. In fact, she loves diagnostic radiology. "Watching the attendings, they just put a whole story together based on one scan. There's a lot of critical thinking involved."
While she rotates through diagnostic radiology subspecialties in her early years of residency, she stays connected to interventional radiology through a bimonthly book club, happy hours, and an occasional Yankees game. "Everyone works hard here, but there's a lot of camaraderie," she says.
She also finds time for the violin, now playing with the New York Repertory Orchestra, a community-based orchestra based in midtown Manhattan.
More than anything, Liou is excited about the variety of opportunities that interventional radiology offers at a place like Columbia. "Small and big procedures, inpatient and outpatient, pediatric and adult," she says. "They're treating cancer in their office, and the patient walks out a couple of hours later and goes about their day."
"The interventional radiologist did this big procedure, and there's hardly a mark on the patient's body."