Q&A: Seattle Top Doctor Maria Chong Says Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Will Revolutionize Radiology

Maria Chong specializes in diagnostic radiology at Radia.

By Erika Almanza Brown March 30, 2018


This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Seattle magazine.

This article appears in print in the April 2018 issue, as part of the Top Doctors cover story. Click here to subscribe.

Why did you choose this specialty?
Radiology attracted me because of the ability to see the human body in a way that is not visible to the eye. For me, normal human anatomy has an elegant visual symmetry that is interrupted by different patterns of disease and pathology. I am a visual person, and the ability to use that talent to diagnose disease and improve the lives of my patients is rewarding. 

What are your areas of special interest?
As a body imager, I am particularly interested in the radiology of cancer. Being part of the multidisciplinary cancer care team is rewarding, and I often read imaging studies on patients throughout the course of their treatment. I find the continuity of care that I can provide to be rewarding. Cancer screening is also a strong interest. I have been involved in developing lung cancer screening programs for several hospitals in our practice. Early diagnosis is critical to improving cancer survival and is a valuable service to our patients. 

What are new treatments that we can look forward to in the next 5–10 years?
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will revolutionize radiology in the next decade. Although still an early technology, computers are beginning to interpret images and assist the radiologist in making a rapid, accurate diagnosis. Eventually, AI in medicine will improve diagnostic accuracy, lower health care costs and enhance our lives. And advances in CT and X-ray equipment continue to lower the radiation dose from diagnostic imaging exams. As a result, radiology is safer today than ever before.


What’s the biggest misconception that patients have about what you do? 
Many patients do not know the difference between radiologists and radiology technologists. The radiology technologist is trained in the use of X-ray, CT, ultrasound and MRI equipment. They obtain the appropriate images and deliver them to the radiologist. A radiologist is a physician specially trained to diagnose disease using these medical images. Our job involves working with both our patients and the other physicians on their clinical team to diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases. 

Is there a patient behavior that you wish you could change? 
I don’t think patients understand the benefit of staying within one health care system for all of their imaging needs. Being able to compare a current imaging study to any previous imaging is a critical part of providing patients with the most accurate diagnosis and ensuring each patient receives the lowest possible amount of radiation exposure. If a patient has imaging studies done at many different health systems, obtaining those images can be difficult. This is especially critical for patients who are seen in emergency rooms and urgent care sites, where waiting for previous studies to be sent is often not possible. 

What’s the most fun—outside of medicine—that you’ve recently had?   
I enjoy listening to classical music and spending time with family and friends. I have had great interest in baking healthier treats, especially modifying recipes to make lower-sugar and lower-fat cookies for my family. 

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