Giuseppe Carotenuto, MD, Fourth-Year Radiology Resident

I realized the radiologists were the ones who had made my diagnosis so that I could be referred to the surgeon. And the pieces just fell into place.

Giuseppe Carotenuto, MD, remembers being asked about radiology while he was in medical school. “My answer, word for word, was, ‘You’ll never find me in a dark room not dealing with people.’” The son of Italian immigrants, Carotenuto and his two brothers grew up working in the family restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he thrived on a life that was almost entirely social.

Looking back at a winding path to the one thing he was certain he would never do—a radiology residency at Columbia—Carotenuto now sees that it all makes sense. “It actually all ties into soccer,” he explains.

When he wasn’t at the restaurant or in school, Carotenuto lived on the soccer field, and as a rising star youth player he was captain of the U.S. Junior Olympic team and later recruited by Columbia University, a NCAA Division 1 school. “The plan was to become a professional soccer player and hopefully be the next David Beckham,” he says.

Shortly before he left for college in New York City, Carotenuto suffered a sports hernia (athletic pubalgia), an injury that led to multiple radiologic examinations and ultimately surgery to get him back on the pitch. It was a wake-up call. “That was a big realization moment for an 18-year-old,” he recalls. “The dream can disappear, just like that.” Always interested in anatomy, he decided to take pre-med requirements in college.

Carotenuto credits his orthopedic surgeon for many more years of soccer, both at Columbia and then professionally in El Salvador. Knowing that his injuries would ultimately limit how far he could go with his sport, he hung up his cleats when he passed the MCAT and came home to attend medical school at the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix. “I wanted to do for others what the surgeon did for me. Repair broken bones, repair broken dreams. Get people back on the field.”

During medical school, Carotenuto’s interest shifted from orthopedics to reconstructive plastic surgery, which he pursued with the same focus and passion that made him a success on the soccer field. It was while applying to residency that he suddenly realized he was in the wrong field. During this time, he chose to do an elective rotation in radiology, which was known to be a laid-back elective. “I never left that room,” he remembers.

“I was in awe of how much these radiologists knew. These people were talking to the plastic surgeons on their level and then turning around and talking to the pulmonologists about advanced lung disease.”

In the end, it all circled back to soccer for Carotenuto. “I realized the radiologists were the ones who had made my diagnosis so that I could be referred to the surgeon. And the pieces just fell into place.”

Carotenuto is currently in his fourth year of residency at Columbia, where he explored several subspecialties before settling on musculoskeletal radiology as a natural fit. He is grateful for the mentorship of Tony Wong, MD, and Diego Jaramillo, MD, MPH, who gave him the skills, opportunities to publish, and general support and advice he needed to get accepted for a Musculoskeletal Radiology Fellowship at the University of California San Diego in 2022. “These are blessings,” he says of the opportunity to work with faculty like Wong and Jaramillo. “These are the cornerstones of the foundation I’m building right now.”

When it comes to spending time in dark rooms, Carotenuto has a different view of radiology now. He appreciates the work/life balance, which gives him time to spend with the people he cares about most—including his wife and two young children. He also emphasizes that musculoskeletal radiologists interact regularly with people through image-guided procedures. “We see patients, they have a story. It’s not just pictures on a screen.”