Milestones

I achieved two big milestones in the last week. My husband John and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and, because we squeezed in our wedding the day after we finished our finals, I have now been a doctor for more than a quarter century.

The past 25 years have been witness to an incredible explosion of technology in my chosen specialty. Xeromammograms were still around when I graduated from medical school and it wasn’t until well after I had completed my fellowship in the mid-90s that MRI became widely used for imaging the breast. Now I am looking at 3d mammograms and wondering when MR spectroscopy for breast will mature for routine use.

As a surgical intern, I watched several young women die of breast cancer. I hope their counterparts today would have a much better chance of survival due to the combined benefits of mammography screening and more effective therapies.

Much of that first year as an intern is a blur but even still there are so many patients I remember vividly. I also remember the radiologist who told me he couldn’t image my patient who I believed had brain metastases from breast cancer because he was going to the horse races. He inspired me to become what I hope is a very different type of doctor!

Xeromammograms used a technique similar to photocopies but needed a higher radiation dose and eventually were replaced by film-screen mammography. Advocates of the technique argued for it's ability to demonstrate calcifications and the fact that no darkroom or lightbox were needed.