Personal Loss and a Passion for Discovery Lead to Donation for Mammography Outreach

Feb. 23, 2016

Georgia HitzkeGeorgia Hitzke’s education and ingenuity led her from working as a technologist to a vice presidency at a major medical device corporation, helping mammographers educate and train their fellow technologists around the world. Now she wants to give back through a donation to the ASRT Foundation for mammography outreach.

“I am giving to the Foundation because my passion for the past 15 years has been mammography and I lost two of my best friends, both in their 50s, to breast cancer,” says Georgia. “And I worked in the field of breast imaging for a number of years.”

Georgia Hitzke, R.T.(R)(M), started out in medical technology, pre-med, at the University of Wisconsin before she entered the radiology program at Sacred Heart School for Radiological Technologists.

“When I got out of high school, I knew that I wanted to go into radiology right away, but my mother wanted me to go to college,” says Georgia. “So I went into pre-med for medical technology for three years, then quit and pursued radiology.”

Radiography and the Quest for Knowledge

Working toward a career in the radiologic sciences led Georgia into a program and a first job that offered her experience in all departments. “We did everything from nuclear medicine to radiation therapy, and my job was to fill in for every department. I knew how to operate all of the machines and filled in for anyone who was sick or on vacation.”

To Georgia, being an R.T. meant growing through experience and training, along with expanding her abilities. She moved from a staff position to working as a technical manager and imaging office manager for Radia Medical Imaging. In this position, she managed technical and office staff for several outpatient imaging offices and oversaw the design, construction and implementation of numerous outpatient imaging centers.

“You learn through all these experiences and the equipment you’re responsible for over the years,” says Georgia. “I was never satisfied with being a technologist who only did one thing and then went home...not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with that.”

Professional Growth and Opportunities

TREX Medical recognized Georgia’s management and facility design experience in 1999, bringing her on as a clinical applications specialist. She was soon promoted to clinical applications manager, and then director of clinical services for the LORAD division.

In 2002, she became global vice president of clinical and product management for Hologic Women’s Imaging. Nine years later, she advanced to global vice president of product and clinical education for the breast and skeletal health divisions.

“It was the experience of being in radiology, plus the management and design experience, that enabled me to move up in a major medical company,” says Georgia. “They were interested in me for the vast experience I had with the equipment and how to improve it from an R.T.’s viewpoint. I found I had a knack for designing equipment and helping the engineers.”

From Manager to Developer and Volunteer

Georgia’s accomplishments grew as she worked with teams at Hologic to develop system requirements for a mammography digital system to “ensure a seamless transition from analog to digital breast imaging.” She also led several product management teams that developed breast tomosynthesis and biopsy systems, along with a group responsible for creating and launching the first virtual training program for radiologists on reading breast tomosynthesis exams. In addition, Georgia received several patents in digital imaging, breast tomosynthesis and computer-aided detection (CAD) for the tomosynthesis image display.

Georgia expanded her involvement in management and leadership by working with the ASRT Foundation through the Health Care Industry Advisory Council for several years, concentrating on application training. Next she was appointed to serve on the ASRT Foundation Board of Trustees and now, in her fourth year, holds the title of vice chairman.

Georgia was instrumental in establishing the Mammography Society for the State of Washington and is vice president of the board of directors for the Susan G. Komen chapter in Southwest Florida.

Continued Support of Mammographers Globally

Georgia says that her experience with developing, promoting and training in mammography led her to donate during the ASRT Foundation’s latest campaign, with her focus on outreach efforts in breast imaging. “We did a lot of outreach at Hologic, and I want to help with that aspect of technologists going through the outreach program for mammography to help train others in the rest of the world.”

Georgia describes her career path as a radiographer, manager, leader and inventor as being a lifelong adventure. “The education and learning experiences I have had throughout my career showed me that if you work hard and believe, you can achieve your heart’s desires.” Working through the ASRT Foundation, Georgia is able to create opportunities for others to do the same.