[February 2009] Shirley M. McCarthy, MD, PhD, recently heard from a patient with extensive ovarian cancer whose CT scan McCarthy had read. The patient wanted her to know how happy she was that her tumor had decreased markedly. It was a happy and uncommon experience for McCarthy, who normally sees not the patients themselves, but images of their internal organs.
As an internationally recognized expert in gynecologic mri, McCarthy is often called upon to interpret ct and mri scans of the pelvic region. She sees a lot of cancer in the course of her work, but lately she’s noticed a promising trend that makes her job more rewarding. “Ten years ago you’d see someone with colon or breast metastases to the liver, and it would be a death sentence,” she said. “Over the last decade I’ve seen these tumors respond to new chemotherapy drugs, so it’s very encouraging.”
McCarthy, said to have an “eagle eye,” enjoys the diagnostic side of medicine, so radiology seemed like a good fit when she was choosing a specialty. “When I was a medical student here and rotated to radiology, the doctors seemed to really enjoy what they were doing,” she said. Working with other physicians, both within her field and outside of it, is stimulating, she said. “When I’m consulting with doctors in other specialties, they always bring information about the patient and it educates me and helps me produce a better report,” she said, adding that interacting with her fellow radiologists is also an educational and rewarding experience.
- Originally published in the February 2009 issue of Yale Practice.
Title: Professor of diagnostic radiology and of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences
Areas of expertise: gynecologic mri; body ct/mri
Place of birth: Cooperstown, NY
College: SUNY Albany
Med School: Yale School of Medicine
Training: Diagnostic radiology residency, Yale-New Haven Hospital; Fellowship in cross-sectional imaging at the University of California, San Francisco
Family: Husband, Johan Gallalee, MD, child psychiatrist; children, Sarah, 17; John, 15
What is most challenging to you in academic medicine? Besides 3 a.m. emergency MRIs, it is having time to teach, do research, cover the service and do administration. But that’s also the thing I like about it—the diversity of the practice.
What is most rewarding? Helping clinicians provide good care.
What do you like most about your practice? My colleagues. It’s educational for me to go over cases with clinicians, because I learn how to read scans better.
Personal interests or pastimes: Skiing, swimming, environmental activism.
Last book read: Dreams of My Father, by Barack Obama
What would you do to improve our clinical environment if you had a magic wand? More restraint in ordering multiple radiologic studies at the end of life. I see a lot of tests ordered in patients that are older and terminal and I wonder if that’s the best use of healthcare dollars.