Dr. Anna Wilson

“We started about February of this year and we have seen cancers we cannot see with 2D, with 3D,” said Dr. Anna Wilson, breast imaging director at St. Vincent Healthcare. “We know it’s much, much superior.”

Age: 34

You grew up in a different country. How hard was it to leave your home and come to a new place?

I was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in the former USSR. My parents had to move a couple of countries while I was still a young child. Our first move was from Azerbaijan to Armenia when I was about 6-years-old. Our second big move was from Armenia to Russia when I was about 10 and our final big move was to the United States when I was 17 ½. I am now 34, so I've lived longer in America than anywhere else and soon it will be longer than everywhere else combined. America is my home and I love it here. As an immigrant moving from former USSR countries to the U.S., it was a huge culture shock. Of course, language was a big issue in the beginning but I was blessed to learn on the fly which is what you do when you are immersed into a foreign country. I knew I wanted to be in school so I worked hard to get my English up to speed and I started college right away.

Why did you choose medicine, specifically radiology?

Back in Russia I loved the sciences and I excelled at them. I decided in high school that I wanted to become a doctor because I thought I would be good at it. I started medical school in Russia and completed a year before coming here. I think besides leaving family and friends behind, leaving medical school was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I didn't know what kind of doctor I wanted to become and the decision to become a radiologist didn't come until after I started medical school.

Your patients tell about how compassionate you are when treating them. How did you develop your passion for patient care?

I love patients. I think as a physician it is my responsibility to treat them not only from a diagnostic standpoint but also as a human being. Life is not easy for anyone, and we all face challenges and that is why it’s important for me to treat my patients with compassion -- to see them as a mother, daughter, or sister of someone. Besides providing an accurate diagnosis when I see a patient, my goal is to connect with them on a personal level and make sure that they know that I care. I think it is easy to dissociate from the human aspect of "patients" when you are in a busy practice but that is where you lose that personal fulfillment, the satisfaction that you get from knowing that what you did made a difference in somebody’s life. My goal is to make sure that when my patients leave my office that they know that I care and will do everything I can to take good care of them.

What is your secret to success?

I am learning more and more that in giving we receive. I don't think there are "secrets" to success. Success comes with a lot of hard work and diligence. My parents have always been the best examples to me when it came to working hard and persevering in some of the hardest seasons of our family’s life.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

Having three little ones at home can make achieving work-life balance challenging. On the other hand, the minute I step into our home, my world changes. Our children are young and they need quite a bit of attention. I would say that most of the time my thoughts almost immediately go from work to the needs of my children and I think that helps me to de-stress and switch gears. Refocusing on something greater than imaging and patient care nourishes my spirit. My family is the most important thing to me.

Who has been your greatest mentor?

My parents are by far are my greatest mentors. My mom and dad are the bravest people I know. They were forced out of their home when they were my age and had to move from country to country while struggling to provide for us. My mom was an especially huge influence on me when it came to education. She continually encouraged me to achieve and expressed her pride in me.

Is it difficult working in a field where the stakes are high? How do you manage that stress? Stress is a significant factor in medicine and radiology is no exception. Some days are more stressful than others but in the end, I think you just need to know that you have done your very best and that you are human.

What achievement are you most proud of?

My family. I am blessed with an incredibly patient husband. He is also an amazing father. We have three little children who keep us very busy and are a source of great joy in our life. I am also blessed to be a part of big extended Wilson and Babayan families. Being surrounded with good people makes life easier.

What advice do you often give to others?

I am a big believer in continual improvement, whether through obtaining education, skills and talents. Through learning we grow. I try to share that with those around me.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Chocolate. I try to stay away from sweets but I mostly fail, especially when it comes to chocolate.