Who are you? What do you do for a living? My name is Anjali Malik, and I practice as a breast imaging radiologist in DC. I detect breast cancer by interpreting mammograms, ultrasounds and MRIs, and I diagnose breast cancer though the minimally-invasive biopsies I perform utilizing these imaging modalities. Outside of the office, I work to educate and empower women on their breast and ovarian health through organizations like Bright Pink and the Society of Breast Imaging.
I love all things culinary, eat mostly plants (no dairy at all!), and live an active, healthy, eco-friendly lifestyle. I enjoy yoga, hiking, and travel. I always enjoyed reading and did well in writing, but social media has unveiled the writer in me!
Why did you choose to get into the medical field? With two doctor parents, my exposure to medicine and healing came early in life. Simultaneously, I became interested in public health through movies like The Outbreak (Dustin Hoffman, CDC, Ebola outbreak – exciting stuff!) and efforts focused on saving the rainforest/wildlife. I knew from an early age that I wanted my work to impact the population and planet as a whole, while also directly interacting with patients. Breast imaging radiology perfectly fits that bill. I see patients daily, interact with other physicians in medicine, advocate for my patients and profession to policymakers, and those efforts impact women everywhere. It is a very challenging and rewarding career.
What is the most memorable experience you’ve had being a Breast Radiologist? When I first became a practicing breast imaging radiologist, I gave a talk in front of 550 breast cancer survivors. The strength, resilience and emotion in that room inspired me to keep working on my advocacy, education and empowerment efforts. Early detection of breast cancer through screening mammograms saves lives, and those women were living proof. I felt that I owed it to each of them to keep their momentum going and spread their messages to other women.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way? Medicine and health are NOT one size fits all. Each patient’s experiences require different approaches to optimizing their health and wellness. With women and breast cancer, everything is personal and personalized, from delivery of results to treatment, reconstruction (or lack there of) to survivorship. Every woman and her route to health is unique. It’s easy to get caught up in the pink of breast cancer awareness, but more important to be aware that so many women don’t relate to the pink, to the concept of the fight, to the “save the girls” messaging. Hearing their stories opened my eyes and influenced how I practice today.
What is the most important thing for women to know regarding breast health? Know your risk and your normal. Learn what your breasts feel like on self-exam so you can identify changes. Know your family history and risk factors including the ones that you can reduce like avoiding/eliminating alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight. Have an open dialogue with you doctor or provider so you can be taking every step to living your breast life, whether that’s high risk screening, genetic testing, risk-reducing surgeries or extra imaging. You have to take charge and ownership of your health and learn how to best maximize it.
What message do you think every woman should hear? You are not an imposter. You belong. You earned it. You ARE it.
As women we doubt ourselves. We doubt our accomplishments even though we put in the time and effort or fought tooth and nail to get to the top. A healthy dose of humility is one thing, but self-doubt serves no one.
We also often let others dictate what we deserve, when no one other than ourselves can really do that. We have to drown out the noise that makes us feel unworthy, whether it’s that voice in our head or the people around us.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Life is a marathon, not a sprint. That has really helped me to slow down, or at least not to panic about where I am at each moment in time. I know that I am taking the steps towards personal and professional success, and that each one comes with its own sets of struggles and rewards. I experience each, learn from each, and take those lessons as I move forward.
This advice applied in medical school and residency, as I was drinking from the fire hose of medical textbooks, to my personal life where I wondered if I would ever find “the one.” It even applies during my time in nature – sometimes I have to remind myself that hiking can be about the journey, not just the destination! (though I love a good scenic vista at the end of a hike)
What do you love most about yourself? I am very adaptable. Perhaps being the child of two doctors (unpredictable schedules) instilled that early, but life has reinforced it along the way. From Hurricane Katrina to personal health, life as an Army wife to practicing in an ever-changing healthcare environment, being adaptable serves me well.
What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you? Most people would tell you I’m a people person and guess that I’m an extrovert – but what they don’t know is that I am an introverted extrovert! While I enjoy working with and being around others, I value my quiet time and getaway into nature as often as possible. That time to rest and reset is the only way I can hustle like I do!
Anjali practices as a Breast Imaging and Intervention Specialist at Washington Radiology, serving patients of the DC Metroplex. Outside of the office she works to empower women on their breast and ovarian health.