Meet Jill Rutehrford, senior partner at Vulcan Imaging Associates and UAB Radiology alumni. We asked her questions about her past, future, and what working in Radiology means to her.

What is your name and title? 

Jill Rutherford, M.D., senior partner at Vulcan Imaging Associates in Birmingham, Alabama. I have several titles, including “fixer”, “receiver of all phone calls no one else answers” and “scheduling magician”. I could go on. Seriously though, I have been the Vice Chairman of Radiology at St. Vincent's Birmingham for around 20 years and have been a member of my groups Executive Committee for the past 4 years.
rutherford

What is your background at UAB?

I attended UASOM from 1988-1992 and was a radiology resident at UAB from 1992-1996. I served as Co-Chief Resident with Johnny McAlhaney, one of my favorite residents. Johnny is from South Carolina and worked on fishing boats in the summers during high school and college. Don’t ever ask him about that because he will describe in great detail about how many worms are in the fish. All I can say is don’t ever eat Amberjack...

Why did you choose UAB?

I chose UAB for residency due to the diversity of patient populations that one got exposure to during training. Cooper Green, VA, Childrens, UAB (ED, trauma and specialized tertiary care) -all of these different patient populations provided me with actual hands on training for a variety of diseases across many different patient populations. Secondly, I saw first hand the strength of the Deaprtment of Radiology and the high quality of the radiology residents while doing my clinical years at UAB for medical school.

Can you provide a brief work history and where you are currently? 

I joined a private practice group named Radiology Associates of Birmingham after completing residency in 1996 and have been with that group for the entirety of my career. We changed our name to Vulcan Imaging Associates a few years ago as the group started to expand our business outside of Birmingham and Alabama. We chose the name Vulcan as an homage to our Birmingham roots. I have worked as a general radiologist throughout my career but have focused my time as a breast imager the last 15 years or so. The majority of my time is spent working at St. Vincent’s Birmingham.

What encouraged you to become a physician?

I have always hated this question, as I don’t have a good or compelling answer. The truth is that I woke up one day during my senior year of high school and knew on that day that I would pursue becoming a physician. I didn’t come from a medical family or have any medical professional mentors. I have never questioned that decision during the years of training or as a practicing physician.

What do you consider the biggest success of your career?

So to answer that question depends on one’s definition of success. My personal goal was to always just be the best radiologist I could be. I think my greatest success is still loving what I do as a breast imager after being in private practice for 26 years. I still get immense personal satisfaction from interacting with the breast patients and helping them walk through the diagnostic maze of having a breast problem or being told that there is a potential breast problem. Many of them are just scared and of course, assume the worst. So if you can spend a few minutes with them and calm their fears and/or put things in perspective, they are immensely thankful. I also have learned so much from my patients over the years. I have seen so many women who are dealing with difficult diagnoses, going through miserable treatments, who deal with their situations with grace and non-wavering faith. I know that over the years my personal faith has grown because of my interactions with these patients.

What is one piece of advice you would give to current residents, fellows and/or new faculty?

My advise to the younger radiologists:
  -Know that you are human and you WILL make mistakes. With the significant mistakes, if it doesn’t keep you up at night, something’s wrong and maybe you are in the wrong field.
  -I know its cliche, but treat patients like you would want your family member to be treated (assuming you like your family). I watched my husband walk his journey of a stage 4 cancer diagnosis and subsequent stem cell transplant and I was always so grateful and appreciative when he was treated with kindness, honesty and respect. FYI- that was over 12 years ago and he remains cancer free.
  -Listen to your techs and treat them with respect. I get some of my best patient history and information from the techs.
  -When patients are rude or mean, just keep saying to yourself, that patient is scared, that patient is scared…. Keep saying it until the interaction is over. Lol
  -Find a hobby outside of medicine. I started playing league tennis when residency was over and some of my best friends now are non-medical people that I have met through tennis. Although you certainly need your medical friends, it can be a life saver to have friends that you can’t talk medicine with. And it helps to be able to have a hobby where you get to hit things too.

 

Thanks to UAB Radiology Department, especially Dr. Cheri Canon, for asking me to do this. This process has brought back some wonderful memories.