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My Career: Radiologist Geraldine McGinty


By Sarah Finnan
04th Jul 2024

Photo by Deirdre Brennan

My Career: Radiologist Geraldine McGinty

Originally from Galway but living in New York, Geraldine McGinty is a radiologist specialising in the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. The first woman chair and the 97th President of the American College of Radiology (ACR), she's been instrumental in advancing initiatives in data science and health equity. This April, she was awarded a gold medal from the American Board of Radiology, making her one of less than 20 women to receive the honour – one of whom was Marie Curie.

Did you always want to be a doctor?
No, but with two parents who trained as nurses, healthcare was always a clear influence in my career planning. I made multiple CAO form changes but eventually medicine was my first choice.

In college, I studied… hard. I lived at home so might have missed out on some of the college experience but my exam results were probably better for it. Having said that, I always made time to plan my outfits for college. It was the 80s so I had to tone down my love of the Madonna look for clinics!

My most formative work experience was… a summer I spent as a nurses’ aide. I saw how badly some doctors treated the nursing and support staff and so I vowed to respect all staff working in healthcare. I fell in love with radiology when I realised that it combined my love of anatomy and technology, and often solved the puzzle of the patient’s diagnosis.

My first real job was… setting up an outpatient X-ray centre for a large teaching hospital in New York City. Fresh out of training, I had to attend construction meetings, hire a team and learn how the complex US healthcare payment system works. I learned fast, used my Irish connections to help me navigate the systems, and tried not to let the fact that I was a young, Irish female in a largely middle-aged male environment overwhelm me.

The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… Excel.  That plus so many valuable lessons about never making assumptions about a team member’s interests and goals and leading through influence, including how to build allies if you want to get anything accomplished.   

A common misconception about what I do is… that radiologists are going to be replaced by AI. We are not. AI will absolutely augment human radiologists’ performance and has the potential to allow us to provide imaging services to parts of the globe that don’t have a human radiology workforce. But I see our role evolving such that we will be data curators, merging imaging, pathology and genomic data to drive faster and more accurate diagnoses and predictive analytics to identify disease earlier and develop more effective cures.

Photo by Deirdre Brennan

My main responsibility in work is… to make sure that our faculty and staff work in an atmosphere where they can thrive and provide the best care for our patients. I do this through meeting with colleagues at all levels in the organisation regularly. I listen, learn and help them problem-solve. I’m particularly focused on supporting a culture of professionalism where everyone feels respected and valued and can contribute to their fullest potential.

Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from? 
Many. Dr. Jacqueline Bello was a senior faculty member who gave me such unwavering support in my early career as I made every rookie leadership mistake in the book. One of my mentees, Dr. Elizabeth Arleo literally spoon-fed me through the academic promotion process which I found incredibly intimidating after returning to academic medicine after more than a decade in private practice. I learn as much from my mentees as I hope to contribute to their learning and embrace the concept of 360-degree mentorship.

The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… leaving one job without having another locked in. It was a difficult time for me because I had always had a career path lined out and suddenly I had none. I availed of work coaching, networked furiously and used the time to really clarify in what area I wanted to work. There were some sleepless nights.

I wake at… 5.30-6 am – not by choice, but naturally. I’m my father’s daughter in that. 

The first thing I do every morning is… check my email. I know I should be meditating…

My morning routine is… to try to exercise three times a week. I do that at home, gyms full of grunting guys are not my happy place. On my commute, I often catch up with a round of online scrabble against my sister. I skim the New York Times, The Economist Espresso and the Financial Times. I have a WhatsApp group with some similarly fashion-obsessed friends so there’s often a dissection of the style at the various galas and awards events from the night before. 

I can’t go to work without… coffee. We have a very complicated machine at home thanks to my scientist husband, but the coffee is excellent.

I travel to work by… bus and my style has become more relaxed since the pandemic. I’m typically in sneakers or boots. I keep a pair of 7cm black suede Manolos in my office that will reliably elevate almost any look if I need to up my game.

On an average workday, I… speak with dozens of colleagues online and in person. I am lucky to have colleagues whose values I share and who are doing inspiring work that I’m privileged to support.

I start my working day at… 7-8 am when I am in New York. I travel domestically and internationally so I often schedule meetings in other time zones. I use the Timeshifter app to remind me when to get out into the sunshine and how to manage my caffeine intake to minimise the effects but there’s no substitute for a “fake it til you make it” face. I love Kinvara’s Rosehip Serum to restore my glow.

The first thing I do at work is… print my to-do list and calendar. I like to have the hard copy to take notes during the day. By the end of the day, my handwriting is practically illegible and the notes are a mess, but it forms the basis of the next day’s to-do list

I usually spend the first portion of the day… prioritising how I’ll spend my time and focus. I meet with colleagues and share information and ideas.

break for lunch at… 1pm and usually eat at my desk. It could be leftovers, sushi from the hospital cafeteria, or if I’m just back from Ireland, Crimmins brown bread and Burren Smokehouse smoked salmon.

The most useful business tool I use every day is… my knowledge and experience of medicine, combined with business acumen to drive policies and decisions for the best patient care.

I save time by… working while on the move. I work on trains and planes. I make calls in cabs. I dictate my emails and keep them short. That said, if I need to send a long email I give it a lot of time, to make sure that the message is clear.      

I rarely get through my working day without… more coffee and a couple of squares of chocolate, preferably Hazel Mountain but I am also partial to a Wispa. Every time my mum visits the US she brings over enough bars to replenish the supply!

The best part of my day is… if I’m on a clinical shift (I do this once per week) when I get to speak with patients about their breast cancer screening results. It is a scary time for them so I make time to listen and address their questions. I also love mentoring trainee radiologists and business graduates. I typically save some time on Fridays for that.

The most challenging part of my day is… trying to stay away from my email inbox (and the chocolate) so I can focus on a task.

I know it’s been a good day if… I see a colleague thriving whose career I’ve been able to help along.

I usually end my day at… around 6pm.

I switch off from work by… watching TV with my husband. We love Abbott Elementary and he even watches Bridgerton with me!

Before I go to bed, I… do one last check of my email. In a healthcare setting, we are 24/7.

I often prepare for the next day by… looking at my calendar and the weather. In NYC, with a walk/bus commute, you need to dress appropriately. Your winter coat is really your armour. I love my Stable of Ireland rain cape and my TweedProject blanket coat and I have the black fitted military-style coat that it seems is in every NYC woman’s closet. My working wardrobe has changed over the years, from scrubs to 4-inch heels and sheath dresses and now to female designers like Nili Lotan and Louise Kennedy.

Photo by Aisling Greally

After a long work week, I… de-stress by having a pedicure, changing into my Nili Lotan Shon jeans and heading across Tompkins Square park for a cocktail with my husband to share our news from the week. My summer favourite is a Negroni. When I am home in Ireland, I love a walk on the prom in Salthill and a glass of Guinness in Naughton’s.

The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… being able to endow a scholarship at the University of Galway to support a female physician in pursuing an MBA. My MBA was a game-changer for me. I am also proud of having been the first woman to Chair the Board of my professional organisation, the American College of Radiology, and of receiving its Gold Medal in April 2024.

If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is… to find people in the roles you aspire to and ask them for advice. People are often happy to share advice and mentor young graduates.

I’ve just finished working on… setting up a new Office of Professionalism. At the moment I’m working on an organisation-wide approach to developing more effective leaders. This will include both key competencies such as finance and regulatory responsibilities but also softer skills such as how to have difficult conversations. I have also just finished reading Nobel prize winner Katalin Kariko’s book Breaking Through.

Imagery courtesy of Geraldine McGinty.