10 Questions with Cynthia Sherry, MD

April 10, 2014

Our “10 Questions” series asks the same questions to a diverse group of professionals in the medical imaging community.

Our “10 Questions” series asks the same questions to a diverse group of professionals in the medical imaging community.

Here, we profiled Cynthia Sherry, MD.

1. Please state your name, title and the organization you work for.

Cynthia S. Sherry, MD
Chair, Department of Radiology
Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas

2. How did you get where you are today?

My youthful dream of becoming a physician became reality through a combination of personal drive and lots of support from family, friends and mentors. My practice situation has been fantastic for the past 25 years and is marked by many unexpected high points and rewards, mostly attributable to a varied and widespread network of associates, colleagues and friends.

3. Why did you choose your profession?

I selected Radiology at a time when MRI had just been added to the imaging armamentarium, and the medical potential for this new technology fascinated me; further, I particularly loved, and still do today, the differential diagnostic aspect of medicine, for which opportunities are more plentiful in radiology than most other medical specialties.

4. What is your biggest day-to-day challenge?

Keeping current with everything – an impossible task, considering all the demands of a modern professional and personal life. Paying appropriate daily attention to the myriad of important professional and personal details can become overwhelming – like drinking from a fire hose! Some brush fires, personal or professional, might very well go out spontaneously, but sometimes these embers burst into flames and the repercussions and impact can weigh very heavily. But, another aspect of this problem is that when you’re in a constant reactionary mode, you can’t be proactive or creative, and your innovative spirit is stifled. Burnout is a big problem for all medical specialties, and radiologists are not immune.

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5. What worries, if any, do you have about the future of radiology? If none, where do you think the field is going?

My worries for radiology are very similar to medicine in general. Medicine has become big business and, beyond health and well-being hanging in the balance, a lot of money is at stake as healthcare policies undergo reform. Unfortunately, physicians were slow getting to the decision-making table, so the power and influence to direct reform has largely been commandeered by politicians and lay administrators. Physicians, including radiologists, are best equipped to balance patient clinical needs with judicious use of societal resources, but we are not yet at the table in sufficient numbers, nor have we fully developed our leadership potential.

6. What one thing would make your job better?

Reduced hassle-factors of daily practice.

7. What is your favorite thing about radiology?

Radiology is medicine’s best Whodunit, and I love this puzzle-solving aspect of radiology. We take the clues offered by clinical history and pair them with the clues hidden in imaging’s shades of gray; combining these clues makes it possible for us to partner with our clinical colleagues to solve some of medicine’s most intriguing mysteries, acute or chronic, and allow us to make a huge difference in treatment plans and patient outcomes.

8. What is your least favorite thing about radiology?

Interruptions – like most physicians, radiologists are interrupted in the task of interpreting large image data files and generating complex reports innumerable times throughout an average work day. These interruptions can significantly affect our productivity and our accuracy. On the other hand, the interruptions also provide us opportunities to interact with technologists, patients, administrators and referring physicians, which in turn, allow us to act as integral members of the healthcare team, to manage quality and safety and to generally be influential leaders in hospital, departmental and practice matters.

9. What is the field’s biggest obstacle?

Some of the most important steps radiology professionals can take today to assure a thriving specialty tomorrow are not reimbursable through CPT codes; but nevertheless, as a specialty, we must find the means to participate at a higher, more meaningful level with the healthcare team, our hospital administration, our own practices, and in local/national political arenas. Apathy is the biggest obstacle for radiologists to overcome in order to pursue these activities.

10. If you could give the radiology industry one piece of advice, what would it be?

Address the prevalent sentiment of entitlement among radiologists and focus on more than just the economics. The practice of radiology is a very rewarding medical career and holds high potential for meaningful professional gratification. Practice management and economics are critically important aspects of practice, but prioritizing these to the neglect of other professional responsibilities and opportunities jeopardizes our future. Radiologists must spend more time out from behind the PACS monitors and in pursuit of more impactful achievements than reading one case at a time. A culture shift is required, to one in which value added service is an expectation for all, rather than a burden shouldered by a few. Payment mechanisms for such services must be sought as the fee-for-service model declines.

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