Alumni Spotlight: Michelle Semin, MD

Michelle Semin, MD, is director of mammography and in-town account medical director for Advanced Medical Imaging in Lincoln, Nebraska. She has always been single-minded in pursuing her passions, be they attending Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology or seizing every opportunity to travel and take photographs around the world.
What attracted you to radiology?

A radiologist came to my physics class my junior year of high school and showed us MRIs, which were pretty new at the time. I was blown away. At that point I became focused on being a radiologist. It’s interesting because I ended up working in the same group as the radiologist who spoke to my physics class so it came full circle.

Why did you choose Mallinckrodt for your residency training?

I was still in high school when I became aware that Mallinckrodt was one of the best, if not the best, radiology programs in the world. When I interviewed at Washington University for college, I even requested to visit the radiology department. So I knew right then that was where I wanted to train. Since I attended Washington University School of Medicine, I had the opportunity to do a couple of rotations at Mallinckrodt as well.

Which faculty at Mallinckrodt made the greatest impression upon you?

There were so many wonderful role models. As the director of mammography for our outpatient center, I use the skills that Barb Monsees taught me every day. I learned how to deal with patients, organize our department more efficiently and make our center a place where women want to come to have their imaging. Claire Anderson was a mentor of mine through medical school and residency. Marilyn Siegel always had so much energy; she was such a leader in the field and a pleasure to work with.

Bill Middleton was head of ultrasound. His program was unique because we had to learn how to scan patients when we were on call. I still use those skills today to confirm findings and in training new ultrasound technologists.

I am also inspired by some of the residents I had the pleasure to help train during my fellowship. Some of them are still incredible friends of mine, such as Sanjeev Bhalla, Sean Pierce and Cooky Menias. I look up to them as leaders in the field.

Please tell us about your position at Advanced Medical Imaging.

Our practice is unusual. We cover a large portion of Nebraska — about 22 rural hospitals and one of the main hospitals in Lincoln. We have two outpatient centers. It requires us when we are on call to be diverse in what we do. Even though I’m in charge of mammography, I do a bit of everything. My focus is women’s imaging, but I also use what I’ve learned to help set up ultrasound protocols.

As for my day-to-day, I am always in a different spot. Some days I am at the main hospital in town. Another day I’m at the outpatient center. Another day I’ll be on the road driving to a small town to do procedures. It’s lovely to get out and get to see the sky.

You have several passions you pursue outside of work. Please tell us about your love of travel and what other interests that has opened up for you.

When I was growing up in rural Nebraska, I always wanted to travel but didn’t have the means. I’ve now been to all seven continents and at least 30 countries. I love seeing the world and all its natural beauty, ancient ruins and wild animals.

I’ve also developed a real passion for photography. I noticed that’s true for a lot of us radiologists. It’s a natural progression: We are imagers and visual people.

I have two rescue dogs. One I rescued on the streets of New Delhi seven years ago, from street kids who were torturing her. I named her Lakshmi, for the Hindu goddess of good fortune. My other rescue dog is named Parker Posey.

I also enjoy Broadway shows. I invested in Memphis: The Musical in London’s West End. It was nominated for several Olivier Awards, the British equivalent of the Tony Awards. I was fortunate to attend the Olivier ceremony.

For the past four years I also have participated in something called GISHWHES, the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. It inspires creativity by getting people out of their comfort zones to do crazy things while spreading kindness. But there’s also a community service aspect and the entry fee goes to the charitable foundation Through GISHWHES, I’ve jumped out of an airplane dressed as one of the GISHWHES mascots, made a dress out of corn husks, asked people for hugs while traveling in Moscow, organized a party for nursing home residents, volunteered at a local soup kitchen and helped raise more than $200,000 to help five Syrian refugee families. My team this year placed in the top 15 of more than 1,000 teams.

GISHWHES changes the way you look at the world; you realize that people are the same everywhere and that we all can use support and kindness. It has helped me in my practice because I recognize how just a smile or touch of the hand can make a huge difference to someone who needs encouragement.