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CHOP Symposium Honors the Retirement of Larissa T Bilaniuk, MD, FACR

Larissa T Bilaniuk, MD, FACR is an extraordinary person. At a time when women were actively dissuaded from careers in medicine, even relentlessly hazed and frankly abused, she persevered. She was drawn to Radiology and was one of the founding members of the neuroradiology division at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). Early in the formation of the division she was sent by Dr Mark Mishkin to the Montreal Neurological Institute to learn about this newfangled thing called a CT scanner.

Larissa Bilaniuk with long time colleague and dear friend, Christine Harris, former CHOP Radiology Manager.

Once back at HUP Dr Bilaniuk and Dr Robert Zimmerman performed the first Neuro CT on Dec 9, 1974. They had to figure out for themselves that the white areas on CT scans of the brain represented blood. Both HUP and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) patients were examined on that scanner. But in 1980, CHOP got its first CT scanner and Dr Bilaniuk spent half a year “on loan” from HUP, starting the CT scanning program at CHOP. She and Dr Zimmerman published many of the seminal papers on brain CT findings in a wide variety of disorders, including some of the first descriptions of subdural hemorrhage in the setting of child abuse.

In 1976, Dr Bilaniuk gave the first lectures on CT in the Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union). At that time there was not a single CT scanner in the entire Soviet Union. The following year she was invited to lecture on Neuro CT in China.

In the early 1980’s the early MRI scanners were very low field strength. Back then Dr Bilaniuk travelled with patients to the General Electric factory performing among the first higher field MRI scans. This experience led to invitations to give the first MRI lectures in Japan, for the Japanese Neurosurgical Society, and at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, as well as co-author the first two publications on higher field MRI in the pre-eminent journal Radiology.

Dr Bilaniuk developed the CHOP neuroradiology fetal MRI program in 1995 and was instrumental in imaging the first intrauterine MMC repair cases and co-authoring many of the sentinel publications in the field. She was also a co-investigator and the primary neuroradiologist for the multicenter trial that made this groundbreaking surgery the standard of care it is today.

As if her neuroradiology pursuits were not more than a full-time job, Dr Bilaniuk always makes time for interests outside of medicine. She is an avid reader and classical music lover. She is also an excellent skier, swimmer, and hiker, being especially fond of hiking the Alps. At 4 1/2 months pregnant Dr Bilaniuk completed a course on flying gliders and was permitted to fly solo in the Austrian Alps. To this day she also remains a certified scuba diver.

Dr Bilaniuk and her late, beloved husband, Dr Oleksa Bilaniuk, were married in 1964. They were both extremely proud of their heritage and connection to the Ukraine and were very involved with the local and global Ukrainian community. Larissa and Oleksa were married more than 44 years.

On October 21st, the CHOP department of Radiology hosted a symposium to honor the career of Dr Bilaniuk. Highlights included two lectures from renowned pediatric head and neck radiologists, Caroline D Robson, MBChB, and Bernadette L Koch, MD. In addition, numerous colleagues paid tribute to Dr Bilaniuk and the impact she has on the field of pediatric neuroradiology. To that end, CHOP Department of Radiology has created an endowed chair in her name – the Larissa T Bilaniuk Endowed Chair in Pediatric Neuroradiology Research.

Larissa, we wish you all the joy and wonder that retirement has to offer. You deserve it!

Erin Simon Schwartz, MD, FACR
Chief, Division of Neuroradiology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

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