Michelle and her husband Bob in Belize

V. Michelle Silvera, MD
Professional Title: Chief of Pediatric Neuroradiology
Locale: The Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
Fellowship: Adult Neuroradiology
ASPNR Member Since 2012

ASPNR: What attracted you to pediatric neuroradiology?
Michelle Silvera: I found myself attracted to conditions of the pediatric CNS and their expression on imaging. As a teen, I liked the visual aspect of travel, architecture, art, food, and such. I found similar enjoyment in scrutinizing peds neuro MRIs, identifying anatomy and spotting pathology. Also, watching experts look at an MR image and provide a precise diagnosis really impressed me. We have come a long way since exploratory surgeries!

ASPNR: Do you have a colleague or mentor that inspired you in your career?
MS: I have many, but my early mentors left the most indelible impressions. I think of Drs. Amir Zamani from BWH in Boston, and Dick Pinto and Dan Lefton from the Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery in NYC. They were great diagnosticians, generous with their pearls, kind, and they knocked out work lists efficiently. They were great role models for a young neuroradiologist and they helped me shape my professional approach to work.
My current division chief Dr. Larry Eckel is a forward-thinking radiologist, beyond wise, and he has an out-of-the-box approach to managing a very large group of smart and opinionated neuroradiologists. I have learned a lot from him by watching his approach to problem solving.

ASPNR: What is your favorite part of your job?
MS: Figuring out whether an implanted device is MRI safe or not – just kidding! I enjoy the reading room: reading interesting cases, comradery with colleagues, engaging with specialists, teaching, and learning at least one new thing each day – nothing out of the ordinary really.

ASPNR: What challenges or uncertainties do you see on the horizon for pediatric neuroradiology?
MS: Staffing. There is a real shortage of pediatric neuroradiologists in the country right now. Almost all specialty practices are short staffed and imaging volumes are up and increasing. Many radiologists are interested in going part time to cope with heavy workloads, some are retiring early, all are looking for work life balance, flexibility, and some degree of remote working. Academic practices that don’t adjust to the current demand for new work models and reasonable workloads will face challenges.

ASPNR: What is the most interesting project you are working on right now?
MS: Implementing Deep Learning software in MRI in our peds neuro practice. Previously you had to sacrifice MR image detail to minimize sedation. Now we are seeing gradient times go down by 30-50% with improved image detail- it’s a game changer.

ASPNR: What words of wisdom would you offer your junior colleagues?
MS: Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from attempting something new. While a new opportunity often involves some risk and discomfort, the gratification that comes with navigating a new challenge successfully is priceless and you will learn a lot along the way. It keeps life interesting.

ASPNR: What was your childhood dream job?
MS: I wanted to become a dentist (I thought the colorful endo box at the dentist’s office was so appealing!). Halfway through dental school I realized that the medical aspect of dentistry was far more interesting, so I switched to medicine.

ASPNR: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
MS: I got my degree in French cooking and patisserie at the Cordon Bleu in London. It was a super fun time and a lot harder than I anticipated. French chefs are no joke! They are very exacting.

ASPNR: Will you be attending the ASPNR meeting in New Orleans in January 2023?
MS: Of course! It’s my favorite neuroradiology meeting of the year, every year! If its January, I am heading to the ASPNR!