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Priya Mody, MD, joins the UNC Department of Radiology as an assistant professor in the newly formed community division. She discusses her vision of community radiology, what eventually drew her into interventional radiology, and her advice to others considering the field of radiology (let go of the vision of a boring person in a dark room all day).

Pray Mody headshot

Dr. Mody completed her internship in general surgery at The Brooklyn Hospital Center (Brooklyn, NY), staying on for a second year of general surgery training afterward. She subsequently completed a residency in diagnostic radiology at Morristown Medical Center (Morristown, NJ). Dr. Mody, a North Carolina native, returned to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to complete an independent residency in vascular & interventional radiology.

Dr. Mody’s clinical interests include interventional oncology, pain management interventions, & women’s health. Her research interests include education, community medicine, & quality improvement.

The Department of Radiology recently created a new division called Community Radiology. What does that mean? And what does it look like for you?

Community radiology is twofold. One is accessibility. So, making sure that the same services, procedures, and level of care available at UNC Hospital’s main campus are available to patients unable to make it over to Chapel Hill. We want to bring the care to them rather than have them come to us.

The second part is education. Community radiology is about the patient and public health education. You can’t ask for or make an informed choice about getting care if you don’t know what is available. My goal is to help educate patients so they can make better-informed decisions about their care. Their options have always included medicine and surgery, but now there’s a middle ground. It’s still procedural care, but it’s not necessarily as invasive or morbid as surgery might be. The more patients get educated, the more likely they will come in and have those procedures, or at least inquire about them from their primary physicians.

What attracted you to the Department of Radiology?

I’m from North Carolina – I’ve lived in North Carolina since I was 5, and I did all my schooling here up through undergrad. I left for medical school and the initial part of my residency and diagnostic radiology training. I was ecstatic to come back to Chapel Hill for my Independent IR Residency and even happier to stay with UNC when they offered me my new position. It’s wonderful to be part of the community I grew up in and can now give back to.

What inspired you to become a doctor and eventually a radiologist?

I don’t think a specific trigger led me into medical school. I was always interested in science. Eventually, that science was more particularly related to the human body. When it came time to decide, I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do. There were other options, including education and becoming a researcher or scientist, but for me, nothing really had a draw to it like medicine.

I can honestly say that I never even thought about radiology until I got to my surgery internship. Initially, I just wanted to be in a procedural specialty. I wanted to do something with my hands and thought surgery was right for me. Once I got into my surgery residency, I had my first exposure to Interventional radiology. Once that became a viable option, I soon realized it was the best fit for my personality and the kind of work I wanted to do. From there, I switched over from surgery to diagnostic radiology. I went into the ESIR pathway, which means I did all my fourth-year elective time in interventional radiology-related rotations, which allowed me to do this one-year interventional independent residency at Chapel Hill.

I like being the doctor’s doctor, which is what much of radiology really is. Our clients are still patients; that’s whom we’re scanning, but the information we’re relaying is not necessarily going to the patient. It’s going to the doctor. I like having that role, and that’s why I did diagnostic radiology. But I still wanted to have some element of patient care involved. With interventional radiology, I get the best of all worlds by being able to fill that role of taking care of patients while also diagnosing issues and passing that along to other physicians to share with their patients.

Are you taking care of the whole body, or is there a specific area of your body that you focus on?

A general interventionalist will care for almost any part of the body below the neck. Today, neuro-interventional manages neck and brain endovascular issues. Vascular surgery still carries out most of the aortic and peripheral vessel work. Some people may not realize it, but interventional radiology pioneered all the procedures that neuro-interventional and vascular surgery do, and we are capable of doing them. It’s just that today where things are so specialized, it’s better for the patient to have someone who knows that specific body system.

An interventionist can do so many different things, which was also part of the draw to the field. I could start the day by doing a line or port. Then I could follow up by doing a procedure on a kidney. I could do a biopsy next. I might have a day with ten procedures and not have a single repeated procedure, and that’s one of my favorite aspects of the specialty because there is so much variety. Whether that’s for diagnostic purposes or treatment purposes – it’s all-encompassing.

Why did you choose to go into academic medicine?

Academic centers are where many of the new procedures are pioneered. That’s where everything starts, and I like when things are happening for the first time around me. I wanted to be involved with the advancement of our technology and our field. Also, I have always wanted to stay involved with education. I like working with trainees. I also get to help bring up the next generation of physicians, Radiologists, and now Interventional radiologists specifically, working with them and showing them the same way I learned. I can show them how I do something, explain why, and discuss why others might do it differently. That allows them to compare, contrast and develop their style the same way I did. Those are the major draws of being in an academic center.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to somebody who’s thinking about becoming a radiologist?

Being a student in radiology was not an exciting experience because, as a student, you don’t get to put yourself out there and try to do the job. It’s a lot of observation. It’s a lot of book learning, for the most part. If you ask a med student, they might say, “oh, I don’t want to sit in a dark room and be staring at a computer screen all day; I feel like I’d fall asleep.” I thought the same thing when I was a med student. And it is true when you’re just sitting in a chair beside somebody else who is doing all the work and maybe not actively explaining everything, and you don’t fully understand the job. But once I got into it, it was incredibly interesting. You need to know a depth of knowledge, especially about anatomy and all the implications that those anatomical differences could mean.

It becomes very interesting, especially when you get a case, read everything, and find the issue. You feel great about yourself afterward because you nailed that; you helped this person figure out what’s wrong with them. They can get treated the right way, and you feel great about yourself. But it is tough to experience that feeling as a student. What I would suggest is that when they do those rotations, if they start to feel less than excited, they should try to find a way to try to get more involved. If I had the opportunity to do interventional radiology as a med student, that would probably have led me into the field sooner. It was way more interesting and hands-on, and understanding the pathology between the diagnostic and procedural images is fascinating. It’s a matter of giving it a chance. Otherwise, you might remain under the impression that they’re just boring people who don’t like to talk to patients, sit in a dark room, and stare at a computer screen all day. It’s a stereotype we are working very hard to break.

If you give your younger yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?

To give radiology a chance sooner. But overall, to approach everything with a bit more open mind. When I went into med school, I was very focused on doing one thing. So, even though I did rotations in other fields, my mindset was, ‘let me do a rotation in that field so that I know what to look for when I get into this field.’ Because of that, I think I closed myself off to radiology & interventional radiology sooner than I would have.

If you could pick the brain of someone alive or dead, who would it be and why?

I want to talk to Lilly Singh. She is a Canadian YouTuber and hosts a late-night show on NBC called A Little Late with Lilly Singh. I would watch her online content religiously when I was younger. She was starting in her career. It was during my formative years, the end of college, and starting med school. It was always really inspiring to me to see that she was someone who was very similar to me in terms of background and age, and yet she chose a different path than what was suggested to her by her family. She found a way to make herself successful in a way that was authentic to her. That was very inspirational, and I love to find people like that, who can always find a way, a light through a sliver of a door. Even though the path might be dark, I think it would be great to talk to someone like that and understand how they keep their creativity up so much that they can always see a spark of hope, no matter where they are. Lilly is not the only person with these characteristics, of course, but I have recently been listening to her first book, so she is currently at the forefront of my mind.

What is one thing you wish your patients or colleagues knew about you before they met you?

I want people to know that I am very dedicated to my colleagues and patients. Once I get to know somebody, I like to put myself out there and be a source of support and help in whatever way I can. During residency and fellowship, that was being an ear to vent to or helping with a shift so someone could be there for a family event. I want everyone to have the same kind of balance in their lives that I want to have. So, I like to do that when I can offer them that opportunity. It’s just a matter of support. I just like being there for people.

Interventional radiology is a clinical specialty, meaning we are clinicians. That means that we do consults; we see patients in the clinic. I want to bring the patient in, give them all their options, and help them figure out what’s best for them. What have they already tried? What doesn’t work? Then manage their expectations, such as how the procedure goes, what they can expect before & after, and these are the risks and the benefits. Then after the procedure is over, maintain that continuity of care. It is very important to me that they know I’m there for them from start to finish. I’m not going to leave them and send them back to another doctor who may not fully understand what I’ve done or how to manage the complications of those situations.

What do you do when you aren’t working?

I spend a relatively large portion of my time with my family, husband, and son, Aarin, who’s just under two years old. We like to try to travel or at least go out every weekend, so that could be a local event, a street fair, a museum, or travel outside the state to visit family. My parents are local, so we also spend time with them in the area.

If I happen to find some time alone, I love reading. I enjoy a little bit of everything, but most of what I read is either sci-fi fantasy-related or self-help improvement. I also enjoy artwork, specifically painting. We have some of my artwork hanging up in our house. I like to use it as a release.

How would you describe yourself in one word?


If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

I would love to have the superpower of teleportation with the ability to take other people. I could go anywhere. Are you having a bad day? Let’s go to an island in Greece. It’s raining today, all right, we’re going to go to Ecuador since it hardly ever rains there. It would be just a nice way to escape, not worry about the stresses that come with traffic, driving, and air travel.