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How These Fathers Inspired Their Daughters to Become Radiologists

Encouraged by their dads’ passion for radiology and breast imaging, these two women decided to follow in their footsteps

Dr. Huppe and her father, Dr. Inciardi

“My dad is one of the most unique and inspiring people I know,” said Ashley Huppe, M.D., a breast imager in an academic practice at the University of Kansas. In fact, her father’s passion for the field of radiology inspired Dr. Huppe to pursue a similar career in breast imaging.

Her father, Dr. Marc Inciardi, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Kansas, was an early adopter of new technology in breast imaging. Committed to helping find more cancers in women with dense breast tissue, he was one of the primary investigators of the SomoInsight Study, which eventually led to the only FDA approved screening ultrasound for dense breast tissue – Invenia™ ABUS.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in the United States; one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. ABUS has become a critical tool for women with dense breast tissue, which can hide cancer on a mammogram. With supplemental screening, breast imaging specialists have a better chance of catching anything suspicious early.

Similarly, Dr. Charles Wells, a radiologist at UT Health East Texas Physicians, is passionate about improving breast care, and spends time outside work to educate the community and advocate for supplemental imaging for women with dense breasts. He inspired his daughter, Anna Galvis MD, a 2019 graduate of Nova Southeastern University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, to pursue a career in radiology.

Dr. Huppe and Dr. Galvis sat down with The Pulse to share how their dads’ work inspired them to enter the field of radiology. And in a field where women represent only 23.1% of all radiologists in the United States, they hope that their passion will encourage more women to become radiologists.

1. Did you always want to be a radiologist? What was your journey to becoming a breast imager?

Huppe: I had a lot of career plans throughout my life, mostly thanks to my dad, who urged me to give everything a shot and never pushed me toward medicine or radiology. Initially, I saw a career in finance. I even majored in business and finance in college and did some internships in that field. However, at the end of the day, I could not visualize a fulfilling life in that line of work. I have always loved math and science, so medical school became an option. I also knew that my dad loved his job and was also able to be around for my childhood.

In medical school, I was drawn to radiology because of the technology/physics and the ability to be more behind the scenes, seeing all parts of the body. Once I began radiology residency, however, I really enjoyed the unique aspect of breast imaging that allowed the physician to have direct contact with the patient. I loved spending part of my time in the reading room like a traditional radiologist, and then also getting to do procedures and to speak with patients about their imaging results.

I was also inspired by my father’s pure passion for this field and the cohesiveness of the group with which he worked – the group I am now so lucky to work with myself. The multidisciplinary aspect of breast imaging is also exciting, and I truly enjoy getting to work closely with surgeons, oncologists, genetic counselors, pathologists, radiation oncologists and many mid-level providers.

2. How did your dad’s work inspire you along the way?

Huppe: My dad has an extreme passion for learning.  He was always going above and beyond, teaching me multiplication before I learned it in school, reading my physics textbooks for hours just to help me with my homework, and helping me organize as many shadowing opportunities as possible to make sure I could find a career that I loved. I never for a second doubted that I could do anything I put my mind to because of his love and support. He seems to always be on the go, constantly striving to learn more, even though most people at his stage in their career seem to be winding down. He still takes time to develop new learning materials for residents and doesn’t miss a lecture when he heads out of town for conferences. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to match his enthusiasm and work ethic, but I’m confident I’ll spend my whole life trying!

3. How has your dad contributed to the breast care space?  

Huppe: My dad’s passion to continue learning and to provide the best care possible led to his interest in research and innovation, most notably during the last 10 to 15 years. He has always made an effort to be an early adopter, or even a pioneer, of various technologies when he sees a potential benefit to the field of breast imaging and, most importantly, the patient. Because of this, our institution has been among the first in the state and region to provide various leading-edge technology, such as digital breast tomosynthesis, automated breast ultrasound and abbreviated and accelerated MRI.

4. How do your and your dad’s work with innovative technology like ABUS make a difference for women?

Huppe: Because of my dad’s early interest and involvement with ABUS, we have given more women access to supplemental screening for breast cancer with ultrasound and helped many women find treatable cancers that were missed by mammography and could have otherwise gone undiagnosed. This applies not only to our local patient population, but worldwide, as his participation in the SomoInsight study helped lead ABUS to obtain FDA approval and offer more women access to this technology.

Anna Galvis and her father, Dr. Wells

1. How did you decide to become a radiologist?

Galvis: It surprises me, more than anyone, that I am ending up in radiology! In fact, it was a long, twisting journey to medicine in general. Before medical school, I received my Master of Public Health from Tulane University and worked for the Louisiana Department of Health while I went back to school for my medical prerequisites. Before choosing radiology, I was leaning toward pediatrics, but I prefer the workflow of radiology.

Despite never pushing me toward a career in medicine, I know that my dad had a huge influence on my choice. I remember going to his office as a child, back in the day of light boxes and physical films, and watching him read images at lightning speed. Later in life, when watching him converse with other physicians, it was his intellect and professionalism that had an impact on me.

Both of my parents highly valued education, from reading to us as children, to taking us to the symphony and theater, to expecting us to challenge ourselves academically. They laid the foundation for me to be able to handle higher education.

2. What about your dad inspires you?

Galvis: After 40 years in medicine, despite how much radiology has changed since he chose it, he stays committed to the pursuit of information and expertise. It would be so easy for him to say, “I know enough, I’ve done enough,” but he isn’t satisfied until he acquires all he can to improve patient care. A life-long commitment to evidence-based medicine is how we are all supposed to practice, but few physicians that I know have sustained that endeavor like my dad. Breast imaging is such a delicate business and my dad takes pride in being patient, kind, calm and genuine, whether he is conveying good or bad news.

3. How does your dad’s work with innovative technology like ABUS make a difference for women?

Galvis: The fact that he has not only taken it upon himself to master a new modality, but also train others in ABUS, is going to make a significant impact on breast cancer detection in women with dense breast tissue. When I ask him about ABUS, he speaks so enthusiastically about how this technology, in the hands of a trained practitioner, can save lives through early detection. The more he is able to educate patients and other practioners about the benefits of ABUS, the more it will be employed for patients with dense tissue.

4. What do you think people will always remember about your dad’s achievements in breast care? 

Galvis: Honestly, I don’t think anyone really remembers your achievements, or how intelligent you were, or how many cancers you caught. What people remember is how you treated them, when they were afraid or angry or at their worst. I think that is what patients and other physicians will always remember about my dad and the way he practiced medicine; his dedication, problem-solving, patience, compassion and empathy.