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Jennifer Schroeder, MD

Dr. Schroeder received her bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University in 2010 before earning her Medical Degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2014. She completed her intern year at the Medical University of South Carolina in Surgery before moving on to a Radiology Residency at Wake Forest School of Medicine. She continued her education with a Nuclear Radiology fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.

What attracted you to UNC?

I originally grew up in Atlanta. I only realized I was not a big city person once I moved away. I went to college at Appalachian State, which brought me to North Carolina, an incredible place. I hoped to stay in the North Carolina area or end up here eventually. UNC is one of the prominent major universities in this area and offers a renowned radiology department, so it was on my radar to find a position within the institution.

What attracted you to the Department of radiology at UNC?

I’ve always been very interested in academics. In high school, I tutored after school, teaching students about the Sciences because that’s been my strong suit. So, I always knew I wanted to attend a prominent institution focused on teaching. I tried multiple times during my career to end up at UNC, between Medical School and residency, but it wasn’t the right fit then. This time, however, it seemed like a perfect opportunity, an academic position in nuclear medicine at a prestigious medical school and thriving state hospital.

What attracted you to Radiology?

Initially, I didn’t think I was going to be a radiologist. I planned to be an emergency medicine physician. I’m a very active person. I like being outdoors and enjoy being consistently busy, so emergency medicine seemed like the right path, but radiology stole my heart.

In my first year of medical school, one of my classmates invited me to an after-hours educational view box session where one of the Radiologists would sit down with medical students and review old teaching files. This was at the Medical University of South Carolina. I noticed we would talk through a film, and the picture burned in my memory. The image remained the cornerstone when I learned about that disease state, its appearance, and how it affected patients. The imaging helped me focus and allowed me to continue building on it. I like anatomy. I’ve always been a very visual person. Radiology was a way of combining my scientific interests with visuals and anatomy.

Why did you choose your specialty?

Radiology is purely anatomy based, but I missed the physiology of it. They say structure is function, but there’s only so much you can extrapolate from structure. So nuclear medicine brings physiology back into the equation. It’s not considered a high-resolution form of Imaging, but I felt additional physiology information made the puzzle pieces better fit. So, it was a compilation of putting together patient clinical information, atomic Imaging, and physiologic imaging that helped me find the best answer for patients and patient care.

What radiological advances would you like to see in the next five years in general or within your specialty?

There’s so much that’s coming in nuclear medicine. This is the age of molecular therapy and the identification of molecular markers and disease states. The directed therapies are hot on their heels, with molecular-directed radiotherapy in that toolbox most recently. For example, just this past year there’s been FDA approval of the PSMA, or prostate-specific membrane antigen-directed therapy, for castrate-resistant prostate cancer.

That is one example of disease states that otherwise are very difficult to treat, finding one molecule or receptor that we can bind to and attach to a radioligand and give directed therapy to those patients. Allow them to live a longer, more fulfilled life.

What’s your one piece of advice for people who are thinking about becoming radiologists?

My advice isn’t limited to radiologists. I would advise anyone to do what they love and love what they do. Because you spend so much time inside and outside of work, thinking about it, doing it. It’s got to be something that you’re passionate about. Medicine, especially, is challenging. Continuing that path without passion is hard because the work also brings much emotional turmoil. You’re talking about taking care of people who are going through their toughest moments in life. Doing what you’re passionate about makes it all worth it.

What is one thing you wish your patients or co-workers knew about you before they met you?

I’m an identical twin, so I’ve had the luck of growing up with my best friend. I feel my compassionate and empathetic skills with patients, and colleagues originated because I have a relationship with somebody that is one hundred percent accepting. I would hope that everybody had someone like that. I believe that if everybody had a twin, the world would be a much less divisive place and more open to collaboration.

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

The first person that comes to mind is Simone de Beauvoir, a French existentialist philosopher, writer, and feminist activist.  I’ve been reading Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. The book opens with a quote by Simone de Beauvoir, “Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.” Simone was ahead of her time, having been born in 1908. She sounded like a fascinating woman, and I would enjoy picking her brain.

What do you do when you aren’t working?

I am a mother of a four-year-old and expecting my second child in May. Most of my time is spent with my family. We’re very outdoorsy people. So, whenever we can make an excuse to get away to go hiking or something like that, we pack the car and head out on our next adventure. Before starting a family, my husband and I did a 100-mile section of the Appalachian Trail. One day, if we stay in good shape, we hope to complete the 2,200 miles between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. That’s my motivation to keep doing the little exercises everyday anyways.

What would it be if you had to describe yourself with one word?


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

That is tough, because the options are endless, but the two that I come down between are first having x-ray vision, because I’m a radiologist, and it would be pretty cool to have that ability rather than relying on machines. The second is being able to see radiation. I’m a nuclear radiologist, and radiation is this invisible thing we make visible through nuclear radiology by using highly specialized cameras, but there is invisible radiation in the environment all around us. For example, I recall a company decades ago that dealt with radiation installed a radiation sensor at the exit to measure the radiation on their employees as they left their facility. This was to make sure that there wasn’t any contamination leaving the facility at the end of the workday. What was interesting is that one employee was exhibiting a high amount of radiation as he was entering the facility from home. They didn’t understand why, but it was only on the way in, not the way out.

The company investigated. It turned out that his house was situated on a significant radon gas stream. Radon comes out of rock bed naturally, and it is a well-known form of background radiation, flowing underground through rock crevices like streams. As it turned out, this employees house was situated on top of a major stream. So, he and his family were living with high concentrations of Radon in the home, and he was bringing it in to work with him. After this discovery, they were able to move his family to a safer home. Being able to see radiation like that, you wouldn’t have to wait for the rare radiation detector to pick it up.