Above: An MIR faculty photo circa 1962 includes Lily Ann Hanes (back row, third from left). A year later she became MIR’s first female chief resident in radiation oncology. Hanes, who was pregnant when she applied for a residency spot, was told by then director Hugh M. Wilson, MD, that she would need her husband’s permission before he would consider it. Hanes pushed back and Wilson ultimately let it drop. Source: “Imaging & Innovation: A History of Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology”
Since the early 19th century, when Marie Sklodowska Curie began conducting what would eventually become pioneering research on radioactivity, women have been driving ideas and innovation in the field of imaging. At Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, the story continues, thanks in large part to these ten trailblazing professors of radiology.
Tammie L.S. Benzinger, MD is a neuroradiologist and serves as chief of MRI Service. Benzinger’s research group, part of MIR’s Neuroimaging Laboratory, studies Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. She uses PET and MRI imaging to investigate biomarkers she believes will become significant tools in detecting and diagnosing degenerative brain diseases before symptoms occur. In 2018, Benzinger, who is also a professor of neurological surgery, received the Women in Neuroradiology Leadership Award from the American Society of Neuroradiology and the Distinguished Investigator Award from the Academy for Radiology and Biomedical Imaging Research.
When I was applying to medical school my grandmother had dementia
I was very disturbed with the diagnosis and the interactions with the doctors and the medical staff at her nursing home. The chart just said “this patient has dementia.” It didn’t capture who she was or who she had been. When I applied to medical school, I knew I wanted to work on Alzheimer’s disease.
Radiology uniquely supports women
I think radiology has uniquely supported women and been professional in its environment for as long as I’ve been in this field. It amazes me the stories my husband [also a physician] tells about the conversations that go on, the things that happen in other departments. I have never seen any of that. Last year I was on a panel to talk about obstacles you face as a woman in medicine, and I really struggled. I could only come up with one incident, and that was as a medical student.
There’s a community among women here
One of the nice things about the women here at Mallinckrodt is that in each section when I would rotate through as a resident, they would reach out to me. They’re still my friends here on the faculty now, and they are amazing.
I developed terms for my own maternity leave
When I came here in 2001, I was eight months pregnant. I asked the chief residents what the maternity policy was and they didn’t know. So I researched it, including what I thought the university supported, and wrote my own plan.
Farrokh Dehdashti, MD was named senior vice chair and division director for nuclear medicine in 2017. Dehdashti is an innovative translational researcher with a focus on applying PET imaging to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. She is credited with conducting first-in-man studies of several novel PET diagnostic compounds related to cervical, breast and prostate cancers. Dehdashti showed that a PET imaging agent can be used as a noninvasive, reliable method to determine whether a patient’s breast cancer depends on estrogen or progesterone hormones for its growth and, consequently, whether hormone-blocking therapies are likely to be effective.
The field of radiology always fascinated me
I was interested in radiology from the first time I was exposed to it during medical school. It allows one to peel back the surface of the body and look deep inside.
There are more women now than when I did my residency
More importantly there are currently more women in the leadership positions, especially in academic institutions. It’s very important that women are in a position to decide and negotiate on issues that affect women.
Try to stay calm and carry on
I had many mentors and teachers over the years and learned something from each of them. I learned to stay calm in clinic, as your nervousness can affect everyone around you — patients, trainees and technologists. This can lead to a less than optimal environment and make everyone prone to mistakes.
I believe it is important to teach
I admired my teachers and mentors so much that I wanted to inspire others as they had inspired me. I believe it is important to teach and encourage your trainees. But you need to realize that, ultimately, they are responsible for their own learning and never spoon-feed them.
Women are nurturers by nature
We need to be careful not to accept too much responsibility that can affect both our personal life and academic career. So sometimes it is okay to say no.
In 2017, Tamara Hershey, PhD, the James S. McDonnell Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, was named chief of the Neuroimaging Laboratory at MIR. She succeeded imaging legend Marcus E. Raichle, MD, who established the interdisciplinary research lab during the 1970s. For the last eight years, Hershey, also a professor of psychiatry, has been the principal investigator on the largest and longest-running study of neurological complications of Wolfram Syndrome. Her research in the field of cognitive and clinical neuroscience has been continuously funded by the NIH for over 17 years and increasingly involves multisite and international collaborative studies.
The pursuit of imaging sciences
I was drawn to neuroimaging when it was in its infancy as a research tool for understanding brain-behavior relationships. My PhD training was in neuropsychology, and the idea that we could use neuroimaging tools — at that point PET — to understand what neural systems were engaged in specific cognitive processes or what neural systems were affected by disease states was very exciting.
Where we’ve been, where we’re going
Over the past 20 years, I have seen more women actively seek, be awarded and succeed at leadership positions of all types. We have a long way to go still at achieving equity, but it is heartening to see the direction of these trends.
My teachable moment
When I first pitched a study to Joel Perlmutter [the Elliot H. Stein Family Professor of Neurology] over 20 years ago, he repeatedly asked me what question I was trying to answer. He kept asking until I had peeled back all the layers of obfuscation and we came to the most interesting kernel of inquiry. Then he helped me build it back up into a study that made sense. I still strive for this intellectual clarity for all of my work.
Alternate career choice, wardrobe included
If I hadn’t gone into science I would probably be an English professor specializing in 18th century British Literature, complete with cardigan and elbow patches.
In 2017, Geetika Khanna, MD, was named chief of pediatric radiology for MIR, at the same time assuming the role of radiologistin-chief at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Khanna, who earned her medical degree from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, is also the diagnostic imaging chair for the renal tumor committee of the Children’s Oncology Group, a National Cancer Institute-supported co-operative group that conducts clinical trials in pediatric oncology. She has authored many clinical and translational research publications and is assistant editor for the journal Pediatric Radiology
Radiology was a family business for me
My mother, an academic radiologist in India, was a major influence in my life. We often heard stories of barium enemas and other GI studies at the dinner table. Though I never really thought about it consciously, I found myself excited about radiology early in medical school and decided to follow in the footsteps of my mother and eldest sister.
Radiologists form an integral part of the patient care team
An important part of my residency was going to patient floors with the attending to discuss imaging findings with the primary team. In pediatric radiology, we do daily rounds with the ICU teams. This helps the team make informed decisions, and helps us connect with the clinicians outside of the dark reading room.
Mentors who made a difference
Atchawee Luisiri at Cardinal Glennon (in St. Louis) and Yutaka Sato at University of Iowa are at the top of the list. Dr. Luisiri was and Yutaka is an excellent academic pediatric radiologist and clinician with sought after expertise. They also taught me to have passions outside of work.
Speaking of outside passions
I took up Tae Kwon Do, pushed myself through to a brown belt, and was working towards my black belt. Right now, I need to focus on family and work commitments, but hope to return to it someday.
Sally W. Schwarz, RPh, BCNP, first arrived at MIR in 1976, at the behest of pioneering radiochemist Michael J. Welch, PhD. Less than a decade later Schwarz became co-director of MIR’s cyclotron facility, and two years after that was named director of PET radiopharmaceutical production at Washington University. In 2015, she was elected president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, becoming the first pharmacist and fourth woman to hold the position. Schwarz continues to be known as one of the world’s most recognized authorities on radiopharmaceuticals.
Nuclear medicine was a new area of radiology
The field was growing in the 1970s, and there was a need to educate pharmacists in the field of nuclear medicine. I had been introduced to a few radiopharmaceuticals in my medicinal organic course undergraduate program, but not those used for imaging.
I was at the forefront of this career
During my nuclear pharmacy training, I realized that this nontraditional pharmacy role was going to be an opportunity for me to grow and make a difference as this field continued to grow. There were only about 100 nuclear pharmacists in the U.S. at the time.
The field of nuclear pharmacy for women
The number of women in the field of nuclear pharmacy has increased since I began in 1976. Today, 28% of Board Certified Nuclear Phamacists are women.
I became involved in FDA regulatory requirements
In 2009, I was asked to present the new FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulatory path requirements at the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s mid-winter meeting. From that time forward, I have continued to be involved in regulatory issues and have shared this expertise with my colleagues.
If I didn’t choose a career in pharmacy, I would have chosen design – interior or women’s clothing. I love textures and color.
Cary L. Siegel, MD, joined Washington University faculty in 1993 and currently is head of gastrointestinal and genitourinary radiology within the abdominal imaging section at MIR. Siegel is a fellow in the Society of Abdominal Radiology and serves as a committee member of the ACR Appropriateness Criteria for women’s imaging, the American Board of Radiology certifying exam/maintenance of certification exam, the RSNA Genitourinary Scientific Exhibits Committee and the National Cancer Institute Renal Cell Task Force for the NIH.
The technology of radiology fascinated me
I have good 3D image perception, an important skill for a radiologist. I also like the patient contact we have during fluoro studies, ultrasound procedures and CT-guided biopsies. During my medical school training I did research in radiology and a radiology elective, and the radiologists seem to truly enjoy their jobs.
Radiology has changed for both men and women
We are now much more focused on creating a family-friendly work environment for childcare issues, elderly parents who may need some additional support, and scheduling the clinical work and call schedules around our complex schedules and duties.
Women need to find a good work/life balance
It’s important to work hard and read in the evenings/weekends, but exercise and having fun with friends, colleagues and family are important too. Make friends during residency who you can lean on for advice and help when the going gets tough.
My approach to mentoring is to give honest advice
I hope the residents feel that I am approachable to discuss a wide range of issues and I will be non-judgmental and hold their confidence.
Did you know
I was a champion barrel racer in my youth.
Marilyn J. Siegel, MD, was MIR’s first female chief resident in radiology and, later, its first female professor of radiology. Siegel, who also is a professor of pediatrics, is sought after worldwide for her expertise in pediatric radiology. As a result, she has been invited to speak in South America, the Middle East, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, China, Australia, Africa and in 44 of 50 U.S. states. Siegel has written 15 books, including “Pediatric Sonography,” a definitive guide to the use of ultrasound in pediatric patients, now in its fifth edition.
A standout residency moment was a call from Ron Evens
He told me I was going to be a chief resident (1976-77). That meant I would be the first female chief resident at MIR. Ron was a women’s libber before the movement became organized.
Every day is a teachable moment
I’m co-director of the Siteman Cancer Center Imaging and Response Assessment Core (IRAC). As IRAC’s principal diagnostic radiologist, I oversee the interpretation and measurement of CT and MRI studies, which puts me in a unique position to help oncologic investigators optimize their use of imaging technologies at Washington University.
CT pioneer Stuart Sagel was a mentor
He got me interested in writing, which led to a career in academics and my long-standing interest in education. He also stimulated my interest in CT and supported my membership application for the SBCT, where I became the first pediatric radiologist and woman president.
Mentoring is a stepwise approach with multiple meetings
The mentee and I come up with a research idea. Then we review the basic steps of protocol development: background, hypothesis, aims, study design, data collection, analysis. At that point, the mentee takes over and drafts a response for each part of the protocol. Once the approach appears solid and feasible, the study begins. To mentor means encouraging involvement and ownership from the start to the end of the project.
In 2017, Sharlene Teefey, MD, went to Masaka, Uganda, to launch a program that teaches midwives at remote village health centers how to use ultrasound equipment. This was the first of many trips she’s made on behalf of The Safe Birth Project, an initiative sponsored by St. Louis-based charity Microfinancing Partners in Africa. Teefey, whose areas of clinical interest include abdominal imaging, Duplex and color Doppler sonography, and musculoskeletal sonography, has been working with the organization for five years and currently serves on its board.
After my first year in internal medicine, I switched to radiology
As a fourth-year medical student, I spent a month at the University of Utah to gain exposure to radiology. I was already accepted at the Mayo Clinic for a residency in internal medicine, but was so impressed that a patient’s ‘story’ could be told from a radiograph. Fireworks went off in my mind and I knew I wanted to become a radiologist.
I learn from my patients every day
I saw a young patient many years ago whose physician ordered a specific ultrasound exam; results were normal. I asked the patient several questions, had her point to her site of pain, then scanned her again. I found a significant abnormality that would have had a very negative impact on her long-term outcome had I not rescanned. The beauty of ultrasound is that it is an interactive modality.
My defining moment came early in my career
I went to Palau as a medical student and it profoundly changed me. I promised myself that I would circle back and find an organization that works with impoverished families. Microfinancing Partners in Africa fulfilled that need. Its mission is to provide grants for microfinancing projects in Africa to empower those living in extreme poverty through access to services and education.
Did you know
I hiked to Mount Everest 12 years ago, on the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent.
In October, Katie D. Vo, MD, was named section chief of neuroradiology at MIR. As director of Advanced Stroke and Cerebrovascular Imaging since 2004, Vo works closely with the MR service, the neurology stroke service and the ER service. She also was the primary clinical neuroradiologist for the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network. In addition, for more than a decade Vo has served as director for MIR’s diagnostic neuroradiology fellowship program, which has received top ABR ranking.
Being a radiologist is like being a detective
I find it fascinating that a radiologist could look inside a living person’s body and make diagnoses of diseases. I enjoy the detective work of searching for clues on the imaging that may account for a patient’s symptoms.
My ABR oral exam experience was one for the books
I was seven months pregnant with my first child when I flew to Louisville, Kentucky, for the oral exam scheduled for the next morning. Unfortunately, I missed the last connecting flight in Cincinnati because of bad weather. I spent a long time convincing the airline to put me in a cab and drive me 100 miles to Louisville.
I have a responsibility to be a role model
Vijay M. Rao, current president of RSNA and my residency director at Thomas Jefferson University, was a tremendous influence in my career. She balances her work and personal life beautifully, which showed me that it is possible to have both a successful academic career and a quality family life.
Things have changed for women but there’s still a lot to be done
Twenty years ago, I was the first woman to join the neuroradiology faculty at MIR. We now have four women who comprise 30% of faculty in the section. I believe we still have much to do to recruit more women into academic radiology. We can do it if we can provide proper mentorship, role models and a flexible work environment.
I’m a foodie and would love to be a French pastry chef. I love the creativity and precision in making French pastries and desserts.
In 2017, Pamela K. Woodard, MD, was named senior vice chair and division director of radiology research facilities, becoming the first female division director at MIR. Among Woodard’s other roles, she is director of the Center for Clinical Imaging Research, head of Advanced Cardiac Imaging (MR/CT), and also a professor of biomedical engineering. She has four submitted patents and one issued patent surrounding natriuretic peptide receptor imaging, and currently plays a key role in two startup companies.
I never thought being a physician wasn’t possible for a woman
I was fortunate in that I met women physicians at a very young age. My father, who was in hospital administration at the New England Baptist Hospital in Boston, introduced me to women who were physicians. Somewhere there is a photograph of me as a baby being held by Dr. Tenley Albright, a woman surgery resident, who is remarkable in many ways. She won a gold medal in Olympic figure skating and, at the age of 82, works as a director of MIT’s Collaborative Initiatives Foundation.
The choice was clear
I hadn’t thought of radiology at all as a possible specialty until I had Dr. Charles Putman as an attending on my internal medicine rotation at Duke. He was double boarded in radiology and internal medicine, so I initially told him I wanted to be double boarded in both too. He told me that with the expanded requirements for both, it would be better to focus and do one specialty well. I was amazed at what he could tell about the patient from imaging, so I picked radiology and never looked back.
Medicine as a whole has changed for women
When I began my fellowship at MIR in 1995, I think the expectation globally was that a woman might work as a physician, but wouldn’t be either a leader or pushing the edge of her field. Back then, there were no women department chairs at Washington University School of Medicine and no women division directors in radiology. That has changed.
Christiane Amanpour may have caught a break
I briefly entertained being a foreign news correspondent. In college I was the news director at WXDU 88.7 FM, a campus radio station at Duke University.