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Cynthia H. (Blight) McCollough

Professor, Radiologic Physics
Mayo Clinic and Foundation

A B.S. in Physics from Hope College has led Dr. Cynthia McCollough, class of 1985, to a profession that she loves and that allows her to make a difference in people’s lives. Through her work as a Medical Physicist for Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, McCollough enjoys being a part of something noble that is larger than she is on her own. She says, “[Mayo is] not a place to just treat patients or make money. It’s there for the long haul, to be a place of hope and health and healing.”

Currently McCollough is both Associate Professor of Radiological Physics and Director of the CT Innovation Center for Mayo Clinic. Her responsibilities for these positions focus on Computed Tomography (CT) imaging. Among other tasks, Dr. McCollough routinely tests and helps to select the CT scanners that Mayo buys, helps plan the installation and safety tests that are run on the scanners, and oversees a team that provides technical support for all of Mayo’s CT systems. Additionally, she travels to Germany to test prototype machines from the industry partner for the Innovation Center. When the machines arrive at Mayo, McCollough tests their performance and assists in determining the most effective ways to operate the scanners. Mayo Clinic is at the forefront of cutting-edge CT imaging, with systems that can scan the entire body in under 20 seconds, creating images that correspond to less than a 0.5mm slice of human tissue. Dr. McCollough stays very busy helping Mayo develop and test these technologies, but she truly enjoys her work.

After graduating from Hope, McCollough received an MS in Medical Physics and a Ph.D. in Medical Physics, both from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She started at Mayo Clinic in 1991 as a Diagnostic Medical Physicist in the Department of Radiology and has since remained with Mayo, adding on new titles and responsibilities over the years. And although Dr. McCollough’s college degrees are completed, any technological field requires continued education. McCollough continues to participate in many educations courses to stay knowledgeable in her field.

McCollough, like many, recognizes that technical skills are absolutely necessary in her career. However, she says that people skills are even more important. A lot of her job is communicating, teaching, writing, and traveling, so McCollough uses the core knowledge that she gained from her liberal arts education extensively. She says, “… you have to be able to interact and communicate with a large cast of specialties, and to lead and inspire those around you, if you want to impact your field in a large way.” So, if you do want to make a difference in your field and the world keep McCollough’s words of advice in mind and strive to be not only an excellent scientist, but also an inspired leader.