Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Ilona Shikoiants, MRI Technologist

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MRI Technologist Ilona Shikoiants stands in front of an MRI machine
MRI Technologist Ilona Shikoiants

Having an MRI or CT scan can be one of the more stressful experiences you can have as a patient. You may be dealing with unexplained symptoms, grappling with a lot of questions, or coping with a complicated diagnosis.

MRI technologist Ilona Shikoiants helps patients through this often intense phase of their care.

What do you do as an MRI Technologist?

Ilona Shikoiants: I do imaging scans to help diagnose patients and also for research. One of the special procedures I perform is functional brain MRIs, during which we’re checking motor skills and speech.

If, for example, a patient has a brain tumor, we can see which areas are affected by having them do motor and speech exercises while they are being scanned.

Our department never stops. We call MRI machines “magnets,” and the ones in the Taper building run 24/7.

“Our team has amazing, amazing people. We rely on each other. We help each other. We really are like a family.”

What inspired you to enter this field?

IS: When I was 18, I was living in Georgia—near Russia—and I was studying medicine. I practiced in the crematory for a military hospital because I wanted to get into pathology. But my family said, “Why would you want to work with dead people only? Why not see the miracle of life?” So I switched to obstetrics.

When I was 21, a civil war broke out and I came to America.

I got married, had my son, and got my green card. But I had to start my medical education all over again. After my daughter was born, I decided to study radiology.


Read: Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Health Educator Aja Johnson


What’s the best part of your job?

IS: My team and my patients.

Our team has amazing, amazing people. We rely on each other. We help each other. We really are like a family. When I open the door and step into my department, I feel like this is my home. These are my people.

And I love working with our patients. Imaging is one of the most stressful points in their treatment. They have a million questions. And I am here to serve them.

I want them to know we really care and we’re not just robots running a machine. I want them to be happy from the first moment I am taking care of them because guess what? One day, I could be that patient.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

IS: When I was young, I used to write in my diary all the time. One day my grandpa told me, “Don’t trust the paper, trust yourself.”

What he taught me was to be self-confident, to not be afraid of anything, and to just go for it. If someone else can do it, I can do it too. I always remember his words.

“I feel that my life is meaningful if I can deliver something that makes people happy.”

How do you relax?

IS: The best release is to bake!

Tiramisu, puddings, marble cakes, anything. When I bake something, I know the end product will make people happy and that gives me such great pleasure. I sit and watch my husband George, my son Jack, or my daughter Nuritsa take the first spoonful. I want to see their reaction.

I feel that my life is meaningful if I can deliver something that makes people happy. It doesn’t matter what. Deliver something to make someone else happy!

Any pets?

IS: Prince is our pit bull and the love of my life. We got him when he was just 5 days old. We’re his pack. And just look at his sweet face!

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