Saint Mary’s Medical Center’s Chivonne Harrigal in her own words
June 12, 2017
Name/Title/Company: Chivonne Harrigal, MD, Radiologist specializing in Breast Imaging, Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center
Number of years with company: 1 year
Number of years in the profession: Board Certified in Radiology in 2011
Fellowship in Breast Imaging, Stanford University Hospital, 2012
Radiology Residency, Stanford University Hospital, 2011
Doctor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, 2005
Bachelor of Science, University of Pittsburgh, 2001
Last book read: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Favorite movie: Groundhog Day
Favorite musical group or genre: Stevie Wonder
Spouse, kids or pets: Husband: Mike. 2 dogs: Hank and Panda
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about your company and the duties of your position.
Chivonne Harrigal: I am a radiologist who specializes in breast imaging. My job is to detect and diagnose breast cancer. I read mammograms, breast ultrasounds, breast MRIs, and I perform minimally-invasive nonsurgical breast biopsies. I see patients and evaluate breast lumps, breast pain, and other breast concerns. I work at Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center where I also interpret general radiology studies including X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds. At our Breast Imaging Center of Excellence we work with a great team that provides a comprehensive cancer treatment program. Our newest facility is the Breast Center at Summit Surgery in Galena, where we offer a unique comfortable and convenient patient-centered experience.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Harrigal: In medical school I found the specialty of radiology to be a great fit for me. Radiologists are doctors who are consultants for other doctors. We help patients by interpreting their X-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans, making diagnoses and reporting findings to clinicians. In radiology residency the field of breast imaging appealed to me because I wanted to help women with breast cancer. Unfortunately breast cancer is very common, affecting 1 in 8 women in the US. We all know women affected by breast cancer, including our friends and family members. Breast imaging was a medical subspecialty where I could make a positive impact on women. As a woman, this was very important to me.
NNBW: What do you enjoy most about working in your field?
Harrigal: The best part of my job is taking care of patients. Every day at work I am able to empower women to stay healthy by spreading the word about mammograms, early breast cancer detection, and the importance of breast self-exams. When I diagnose a woman with breast cancer, I am able to support her through the very difficult time surrounding a new cancer diagnosis as she begins her treatment journey.
NNBW: What is the most challenging part about your job?
Harrigal: The hardest part of my job is telling women that they have breast cancer. It is the worst moment of my day, every single day.
NNBW: What do you foresee in the future of your profession?
Harrigal: Breast imagers are becoming more involved in patient care and in our community. We are becoming advocates to ensure that women get the facts on the importance of early breast cancer detection through annual screening mammography. I plan to start working with our local legislature in northern Nevada to ensure that all women in our community have access to and insurance coverage for mammography, 3-D mammograms, and supplemental screening for women with dense breasts. Mammography saves lives and I am committed to spreading this message to the women of northern Nevada.
NNBW: What advice would you give someone who wants to get in your profession?
Harrigal: Work hard and be nice to people.
NNBW: What was the best advice anyone ever gave you either professionally or personally?
Harrigal: My fellowship director and mentor at Stanford University, Dr. Debra Ikeda, gave me a copy of the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The four lessons from the book have helped me grow personally and professionally:
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don't take anything personally.
3. Don't make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
NNBW: Has there been someone who was especially influential in helping you establish your career or in reaching your higher goals? If so, who and how?
Harrigal: My parents were committed to education. School was always the top priority, no matter where we lived. They instilled in me a strong work ethic and drive to always do my best, which still helps me in my career today.
NNBW: Do you belong to any professional/networking organizations? How has membership benefitted your career?
Harrigal: The Society of Breast Imaging is a great organization dedicated to saving women's lives through early breast cancer detection. It is committed to spreading the word that mammograms once a year, every year starting at age 40 save the most lives from breast cancer. The society has given me the tools to spread this message, supported by the latest scientific literature and breast cancer research.
NNBW: Is there any educational advancement that is essential for someone in your career field?
Harrigal: It's a long road to become a doctor and a breast radiologist, a minimum of 14 years of training after high school: 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 1 year of internship, 4 years of radiology residency, and 1 year of radiology fellowship.
NNBW: What are your hobbies? How do you spend your time away from work?
Harrigal: I enjoy running and spending time with my husband, friends, and two dogs. I love trail running and in the summer of 2015 my husband and I ran the entire 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail in 10 sections.
NNBW: Is there a nonprofit or charitable organization that you like to donate your time to?
Harrigal: Moms on the Run is a wonderful local non-profit organization that helps women in our community with breast and gynecologic cancers. I know many patients with breast cancer who have received tremendous support from Moms on the Run. I recently ran the 10K event on Mother's Day and it was a great experience. I also just attended the Runway for Life fundraiser for Moms on the Run, which is a fashion show featuring breast cancer survivors during a luncheon and silent auction. These are great local events and the money that they raise stays right here in our community to help women in Northern Nevada affected by cancer.
NNBW: Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Harrigal: I'm originally from New Orleans and the city holds a special place in my heart. The food, people, culture, music, and architecture are truly unique and wonderful. Everyone should visit New Orleans at least once.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you? Why or why not?
Harrigal: No, I love my job and I wouldn't retire right now. Being a doctor isn't just what I do, it's who I am. At Saint Mary's I am very fortunate to work with a great team including other radiologists, medical oncologists, breast surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists, nurses, radiology technologists, physical therapists, lymphedema specialists, genetic counselors, and our fantastic support staff. It takes a village to treat women with breast cancer and I think we have a really great village.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like about living/working here?
Harrigal: Northern Nevada is a wonderful place to call home. The people are friendly and it is a beautiful place to live. After living in the San Francisco Bay Area during my residency and fellowship training, my husband and I were looking for a community with easier access to nature, less traffic, and more affordable housing. We are proud to call northern Nevada home.