Dara Szekalski is a mammographer at Mercy Medical Center.

How long have you been a mammographer?

I have been a mammographer for approximately 20 years.

What does your job entail?

I am the team lead here at Mercy's Women's Imaging Department, so I have many duties. I perform diagnostic and screening mammograms and assist our physicians when they perform mammographically guided localization procedures on patients who require surgery. I also have administrative duties, which include managing the patient and staff scheduling. Performing the weekly quality assurance testing required by the FDA and ACR are also part of my duties.

What kind of schooling or training did you go through?

The radiology program is 21/2 years long and the additional mammography training is on-the-job training. I graduated from Essex Community College in 1990 with an [associate's] and radiology degree. The program is a mix of classroom studies and clinical rotations performed at various hospitals and medical offices. Soon after graduation I successfully passed my boards on the first attempt. About three years into my career I started performing mammography. Current requirements to perform mammography also include a separate license. My education is continuous as technology and research evolves. Example: We just had three new machines that perform tomography of the breast installed here at Mercy. I just completed the required FDA training to perform tomography of the breast in the past month.

What inspired you to this career?

I knew I wanted to get into the health care field and wasn't sure what I wanted to do. When I looked into radiology I was amazed at all the specialty avenues that I could take from this career path ... general radiology, interventional radiology, CAT scan, MRI and mammography.

What do you like best about your job?

I love providing healthcare to women patients. The best feeling is to have a former patient come in for a exam who is a 5 or 10 year breast cancer survivor and know that you may have been part of saving her life.

What are the challenges?

I think one of the biggest challenges for me is seeing how much women have to endure when diagnosed with breast cancer. On a day-to-day basis a mammographer deals with a lot of emotions from patients. Some patients are extremely nervous when coming in for their mammogram and emotions can surface in many ways. Sometimes there can be tears or anger. I have had to learn to be patient with these women and soothe them in whatever way works best for them so I can complete their exam, which can sometimes not be a very comfortable experience.


According to, the average salary for a mammography technologist is $61,000.

Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun
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