David Youmans, MD, (Class of ’95) is a diagnostic and interventional radiologist and former department chair with Princeton Radiology at Penn Medicine Princeton Health. After serving as a decorated officer in the U.S. Navy, he followed his dream of becoming a doctor. Youmans cites his diagnostic radiology residency at MIR as a catalyst for the strong work ethic and empathy that have guided his clinical work. He also serves as chairman of the Radiology Advocacy Network for the American College of Radiology, which he says is an especially rewarding part of his professional career.
You received a degree in economics then served in the Navy for four years before applying to medical school. What sparked your interest in medicine?
I had been interested in medicine, but it wasn’t in the cards financially. Then in 1985, I moved to Norfolk, Virginia, as a young Naval officer. It was there I met my future wife Ann, who was a physical therapist, on a blind date. And on my next birthday she said, “You keep talking about medical school, so why don’t you just do it?” Her gift to me was a stethoscope. That’s when I knew medicine was the right choice.
Were there any experiences from your time in the military that influenced your decision to pursue a career in medicine?
As a Naval officer I had divisions of men under my command, including the corpsmen for a period of time. They were the closest thing we had to doctors on board the ship, and watching them work and how they would serve our crew was inspiring.
And how did you find your way to radiology?
I went off to medical school and was sure I wanted to go into primary care. But every time I talked to people in that field, they mentioned that if I wanted to spend time with my family, I needed to think long and hard about going into primary care. Then I ran into some wonderful physicians in the radiology department at the University of California-San Diego, which has a spectacular radiology program, and they got me super excited about radiology.
Why did you choose MIR for your residency training?
It’s funny how things work. When I told my mentor at UCSD that I had turned down an interview at Mallinckrodt to stay in San Diego, she said, “Are you crazy? You turned down an interview at Mallinckrodt?” So I called MIR back up — it was after hours — and asked if I could have my interview slot. They said the slot was filled, but I flew from San Diego anyway in case a slot opened up. I walked in the door wet to the ankles in a suit after missing my bus and sloshing through a late winter snow. Dr. Janice Semenkovich looked at me and said, “You’re the one who doesn’t have a slot? Come on in.” It was a fortunate moment for me.
Did anyone from MIR leave a particularly strong impression on you?
It’s probably always an excellent time at Mallinckrodt, but I feel like I was there at a golden time. I got to train with folks like Pam Woodard, who was a fellow then and is now a nationally recognized expert, and Jim Brink, now chairman at Mass General Hospital, who was a new attending when I started, among others. If I had to choose one primary influence, I would say it was Dr. Bill Middleton. He emphasized a super strong work ethic, excruciating attention to detail and such an empathetic clinical approach to radiology.
Any specific experiences or lessons that you carried with you beyond MIR?
At Mallinckrodt I found such a strong work ethic and real commitment to patient care, where people were willing to make sacrifices and difficult decisions to make sure patients were being well taken care of. These are fundamental qualities that have stayed with me and have made me good at what I do, and keep me passionate about it. And teamwork — people were very collaborative there. There was never a sense that I was on my own.
What are some of your outside interests?
My family and I absolutely love to travel to unusual places off the beaten path. We just got back from Sri Lanka, and we’ve been to Cambodia, Vietnam and the jungles of Belize where we kayaked down rivers and hiked. More recently, I’ve become very interested in international service opportunities to volunteer in outposts that are just beginning to develop radiologic care.