August 11, 2021

Women in Radiology Spotlight: Q&A With Mara M. Kunst, MD

Interview by Diana Murcia Salazar, MD, Abdominal Imaging Fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Mara M. Kunst, MDThe ACR RFS Women & Diversity Subcommittee recognizes and highlights the value of women in radiology and leadership. The Women in Radiology Q&A series highlights some of the incredible women who have positively impacted radiology.

Mara M. Kunst, MD, is the section head of neuroradiology at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, and an active member of the ACR Quality and Safety Council. She completed radiology residency at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and neuroradiology fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Prior to joining Lahey, she was a managing partner and director of neuroimaging in private practice.

Who do you look up to and why?
On a daily basis, I get inspired by colleagues who go above and beyond at work and at home, while maintaining a positive attitude. I’m lucky to be working with several of these.

What brings you joy?
My family brings me the most joy. My husband and I balance the increasing demands of full-time careers with the needs of our children. Many days, this feels insurmountable, but seeing our children begin to thrive and appreciating the way we work together and support each other, produces more joy than I could have ever imagined.

What initiative are you most passionate about?
On the clinical front, I am most interested in stroke imaging and artificial intelligence. As an administrator, I've become passionate about Just Culture and Peer Learning as a means to drive personal and section-wide quality improvement while decreasing burnout.

As an educator, I'm passionate about medical student and resident education and was honored to receive the "Most Valuable Attending Award" from the Lahey Residents in 2018. Recently, this interest has extended to teaching residents in underserved areas. Through an organization called RAD-AID, we are providing weekly remote interpretation assistance and education to residents in Guyana, giving them access to subspecialty education and expertise.

Which personal characteristic has been the most important for your success in radiology?
First and foremost, I have a deep appreciation for the field of neuroradiology. As section head, I aim to be honest, practical, transparent and fair. I try never to lose sight of the fact that we all work best when we feel valued and supported. I don't shy away from mistakes I've made, but rather try to meet them head-on to prevent myself and others from repeating them.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a woman in radiology?
In truth, I’ve never seen being a woman in radiology as a challenge. I‘ve been equally supported and promoted by male and female colleagues, and try to do the same for my colleagues and trainees. Persisting and not dwelling on the differences, I believe, has allowed me to be an effective leader and educator.

What advice would you give to trainees that want to be successful women in radiology?
Engage with clinicians to learn about the role of imaging in their decision making and to demonstrate our value and expertise. Seek out technologists, nurses and PACS administrators to learn what they do; only then can you effectively communicate to improve your practice. Women that can actively engage in this capacity have the best chance to be successful and inspire others.