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When he was just 8 years old, Mahesh Thapa, M.D., MEd, FAAP, Res. ’05, Fel. ’06, moved from Nepal to Las Vegas. It was a case of extremes. He’d left a country with some of the highest mountains on earth to a state containing one of the brightest spots on earth — the Las Vegas Strip.
Needless to say, there was a bit of culture shock.
“We went from a country where we didn’t know whether we’d get electricity every day to an area where there was so much artificial light that night seemed like day,” says Thapa. “For a kid, it was a big, wild moment.”
Today, Thapa is a pediatric radiologist at Seattle Children’s, using imaging techniques and equipment to help diagnose illnesses and injuries, as well as an associate professor at the UW School of Medicine.
Thapa’s parents, he admits, influenced his choice of profession, but his hobby — digital photography — influenced his choice of field. During medical school, he found himself taking pictures whenever he went for a hike. “I’ve always enjoyed photographing nature,” says Thapa. “I love vibrant colors and majestic scenes. And I’m particularly drawn to mountains, which remind me of the Himalayas in Nepal.”
At the same time, Thapa also found himself drawn to radiology. In fact, he says that seeing the world through a photographer’s lens helped him become a better radiologist.
“Presenting images in a certain way and in a certain order with my photography has helped me organize my thoughts and convey information more eloquently in my radiology work,” says Thapa. “And being familiar with radiology imaging concepts, such as signal-to-noise ratio and dynamic range have definitely helped me with the technical side of photography.”
Thapa draws on his full body of knowledge and experience when he teaches future radiologists. The opportunity to teach influenced his decision to join UW Medicine, and he was recently recognized by the Society for Pediatric Radiology as the first recipient of the Jack O. Haller-Thomas L. Slovis Award for Excellence in Pediatric Radiology Education.
“I’m blessed to teach people who are, in many ways, smarter than I am. But they may not be as knowledgeable because knowledge is based on experience,” says Thapa. “It’s fulfilling to follow the careers of my students and feel like I had some small part to play in their success.”