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CONFERENCE CALL INTERVIEW
HOWARD GLENN, Ph.D.
January 26, 2005
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MR. LAZARRE: Can you tell us how you entered the field of nuclear medicine?
DR. GLENN: Yes. I worked for 22 years for Abbott Laboratories, and I was a research chemist for about eight years. Then they transferred me to Oak Ridge National Laboratories and said we would have to upgrade our scientific background a little bit in nuclear medicine.
Now, that was in the Southeastern Chapter region, but they had a plant there at Oak Ridge which was manufacturing isotopes and shipping them all over the world, and it became—I guess you might say—the scientific foundation for all the work that was going on at that time. All the isotopes were produced at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories.
MR. LAZARRE: Which individuals in the early days of your career in nuclear medicine influenced you the most, you think?
DR. GLENN: I think Marshall Brucer was one of them. He was at the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies, and he was a really big name at that time. One of the first things they were throwing-in to show the importance of radiochemistry and radiopharmacy was calcium-47. They were working with it as it came from the Oak Ridge reactor and was made by the neutron gamma reactor. Researchers were about to publish a lot of animal work on it. We received a shipment of that material, and we couldn't make head or tail out of the gamma spectrum.
So I purified the stuff by simply adding a little carrier to it and following the standard, simple freshman rules on isolation and came up with a nice, pure sample of that. And, rather than publish, we walked across the street and handed it to Marshall Brucer, Boy, talk about screams! If the windows were opened, he would have been heard in New York and Los Angeles, but that just highlights the importance of radiochemistry in nuclear medicine, you see.
MR. LAZARRE: Who had the most influence in getting you involved in the Southwestern Chapter?
DR. GLENN: Probably Tom Haynie. After Abbott, I went down to start the radiopharmaceutical service at M.D. Anderson, and Tom Haynie was my boss, and he was probably one of the best nuclear medicine physicians that I have ever come across. He was trained under Bill Beierwaltes at the University of Michigan, but I think he realized that much more information was needed from the standpoint of radiochemistry and radiopharmacy than perhaps he could provide as a well-trained physician.
I used to go to the meetings, and they would have a physician talk about the use of isotopes, and they would have a physicist talk about the characteristics of that particular isotope, but there was a whole field in between there that was not covered, in other words, what you had to do to get the isotope in the proper form to do what the physician wanted it to do.
Dr Haynie and I went to a Chapter meeting and Felix Pircher, who was the head of the nuclear medicine at the V.A., stood up and made a very impassioned speech about how the national Society of Nuclear Medicine was bringing more technical people into the leadership and that we should follow suit.
In the Chapter, we had Johnny Hidalgo, who was a lifetime friend of mine, and Winfield Evans. Those are really the two, the technical people that have been presidents of the Chapter. Without talking to me or asking me about it, Dr Pircher suddenly put my name in for nomination, and before I could even spell President-Elect, I became President-Elect.
I assumed my role as President a little early because Ted Bloch preceded me, and he died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Johnny Hidalgo placed the call to me saying that I now—according to the constitution—I was President of the Chapter. So I was president for, I guess, a good year and a half or maybe almost two years. I've forgotten what the timing was, but longer than just the one-year term.
MR. LAZARRE: Did people like John Burdine, Paul Murphy, and Monroe Johns ever have an impact in your years in nuclear medicine?
DR. GLENN: They had a large, large impact during my years in nuclear medicine. Raleigh Johnson and Paul Murphy were two of the PhDs that came along a good while after me, but they had a large impact. They were very, very important and very influential.
I got involved in, I might say, an undercover-type of thing at the formation of the American Board of Science in Nuclear Medicine. People like Raleigh and Paul were definitely behind all of that, and at the Society of Nuclear Medicine meeting one day, I just was having lunch, and I heard coming from the next booth a plot that was going to be put before the Society of Nuclear Medicine that would prevent anything like this from ever happening and to limit membership to MDs. Immediately, I went to Johnny Hidalgo, and we organized.
Man, we called everybody. We pulled every string that we could ever think that we had, and when this came up for discussion at the general meeting, there was a tsunami of support, and before anybody could say anything, every microphone in the place had about 10 or 12 people wanting to support this. Those who were opposed to it simply signed and said, “Hey, I guess we have to give up. We can't get near a microphone.” And that's basically how the Society came to back or to co-sponsor the American Board of Science in Nuclear Medicine. Those things you don't forget.
MR. LAZARRE: Well, are there any other memorable things that you can remember about being a Chapter leader?
DR. GLENN: Yes, I remember well, of course, the people that were associated with that. I've already mentioned Tom Haynie, but Charlie Petty followed me, and Charlie was just a really wonderful man all the way around. I don't know anything about where he is now, but he was just a real, real pleasure to work with.
I remember I had a discussion, or a run-in with Ted Bloch just before he died because I wanted to be copied as President-Elect. I wanted to be copied everything that was going on, and I never got anything. So, when Johnny Hidalgo called me to tell me that Ted Bloch had passed away, I said, “Well, what about the file? Let's have the file. Have you thought about correspondence?” And they never did find anything in Ted Bloch's files relating to the Chapter.
And I guess it might have been a good thing. I walked in with feet bare and absolutely the emperor with no clothes. I just had to start going from nothing—and some of the wonderful people that I met were those that supported me all the way through. That's probably the highlight, that's what I treasure - the people.
MR. LAZARRE: Howard, when you were president, how would you compare the Southwestern Chapter to the other chapters that were in the Society?
DR. GLENN: I had experience in two other chapters. When I was at Abbott Laboratories, I was a member of the Central Chapter, and then, of course, when I was at Oak Ridge, I was a member of the Southeastern Chapter; and the Central Chapter was not a very active chapter at that time, and so I was a member, and I went to some meetings, but I really didn't get involved where I could say, “Hey, this is a part that I want to play, and this is what I want to do.”
The Southeast Chapter was very, very involved, and I went to the Chapter meetings, and as I said, I can remember going to Chapter meetings and finding only physicians and only physicists talking and realizing that there was a tremendous need, so when I was approached by Tom Haynie about coming to M.D. Anderson to start the radiopharmaceutical service, I jumped at it. It was something I'd always really wanted to do—to have experience both in the commercial aspect of it and also now in the academic aspect of it.
MR. LAZARRE: And I certainly appreciate you being one of my instructors during those years.
DR. GLENN: Yes. Probably one of the most important things I did during that time in the Southwestern Chapter dealt with how the Sunset Laws of Texas were all taking place. Every law in the State of Texas which had been developing prior to the Civil War and so forth was to go out of enforcement, to go out of existence at a certain day. That was the sunset for all those laws and the question became, “What was going to happen to nuclear medicine?”
Well, I was asked to head up a committee that was to look into this. We had physicians. We had commercial suppliers. We had people from academia. We had people from the hospitals. Once a week, all summer long, I flew to Austin and we hashed this out, and we came up with regulatory statements regarding nuclear medicine for what is known as the Texas codex of laws. People called me from all over saying that I was a disgrace to my profession, that there should be no regulation whatsoever, illegal or otherwise in nuclear medicine.
You could tell that that was not the trend in those days with the Food and Drug Administration and everything else, but that was a tough goal. Nuclear medicine has continued to exist, to flourish. I don't think there has ever been a case of anything in that codex being detrimental to nuclear medicine.
MR. METZGER: What encouraged you to keep on going when you were facing all of this negative feedback?
DR. GLENN: People. Oh, I tell you, people. We did not have a formal Past Presidents organization, but I had telephone numbers, and I got all my encouragement from members of the Chapter who just said, “Hey, stick in there. Put your feet in the ground. Refuse to budge. If the bull comes charging at you, just flick the red flag out of the way and keep going.” And so that's why I said the people that I met just really influenced me so much.
MR. LAZARRE: During those years, especially during the time that you were Chapter President, were there things that the Chapter could have done better?
DR. GLENN: Yes, for example, we held some of the first training sessions that led to taking the exam for American Board of Nuclear Medicine, and some of those training sessions were pretty crude, but the second year was so much better than the first year. I think we could have done a better job there. Just, for example, I was asked to give a two-and-a-half-hour lecture on radiopharmacy and the part of the radiopharmaceuticals, and I said, “Well, what do you want me to talk about?” And they said, “Well, just cover what's in Henry Wagner's textbook.” Well, Henry Wagner's textbook had one and a half or two pages on this and that was about all. So when I got to make my presentation, I told this little story, and I said I was asked to cover what was in Henry Wagner, and I took out a big red Texas bandanna, shook it open, and I put it over Henry Wagner's book, and I said, “I've covered Henry Wagner. Now, we're going to start really talking about radiopharmaceuticals.”
I told this to Henry Wagner a couple of years later, and he laughed—by the way he laughed I thought that was one of the funniest things he had heard in a long time.
And so the second year we put on this whole training for taking the exam for the American Board of Science in Nuclear Medicine exam, I think we did a lot better job of that—all the speakers did. But you've got to get your feet wet some way.
MR. LAZARRE: Now, I have a question that's going to tell on you a little bit.
DR. GLENN: Okay.
MR. LAZARRE: Is there something that one of the past presidents did either previous to or after you came along that you wish you'd thought of?
DR. GLENN: I suppose there is. I wished I'd gotten involved much earlier in the use of nuclides in dynamic studies. To me, that was something that I wish I had gotten into earlier that I didn't get at, and it was pointed out in my professional relationships later on.
MR. METZGER: You mentioned spending time at Oak Ridge. Can you provide some more detail about what you were doing there?
DR. GLENN: As I said, Abbott Laboratories was the principal supplier of radionuclides at that time, and we had a production plant. Oak Ridge was, of course, a young, thriving community, and when it was formed, the government had to have two of everything, so they included two funeral homes. Well, the death rate just didn't support that, so one of these funeral homes went broke, and Abbott bought that and began producing the radioisotopes for research and for human use. We were way ahead of the FDA in our standards and things like that, but that was how I got into contact with Marshall Brucer and so forth at the Institute of Nuclear Studies.
It wasn’t always an easy road to relate to Marshall Brucer—such a dynamic personality. But it was a wonderful experience with human beings.
MR. METZGER: When Abbott was producing radiopharmaceuticals, did they get it from the AEC?
DR. GLENN: Oh, yes. We had a truck that had to be there at eight o'clock every morning, and we had to place the order the day before, and that was loaded into the truck, and that was brought into Abbott, and we did gamma spectroscopy, and we formulated it into injectables, and what was not formulated for injectables, we had available otherwise. That was how we got involved in this calcium-47 type of thing down there.
We were producing it, and the work that Marshall Brucer was doing was done strictly with the outputs from the National Laboratories, and when we got it, we had just a mishmash of stuff made by the neutron gamma reaction on calcium-46, and I just put it through some simple, high school chemistry with a little carrier, and came out with pure calcium-47, and, boy, did that upset Marshall Brucer. They didn't publish it—they never published any of that work.
MR. METZGER: I’m exposing my ignorance, but why was he mad?
DR. GLENN: Well, because he had done so much work with his impure calcium-47 that they really couldn't even come up with a good spectrum with it, and he realized that they had not been working with a pure radionuclide.
On to a funny memory—One of our meetings was held at El Paso. It took a couple of years to plan that meeting. While we were there, we had our night out, and we went across the border and attended the dog races. One of the races—the number 6 race—was dedicated to the Southwestern Chapter, and one of the races was dedicated to the President of the Southwestern Chapter, which I was at that time, and I think I still have a photograph of having to go down there and hug this greyhound dog smelling as he was like that, keep a smile on my face, and that's one of the pictures I've been trying to find because I thought it might be of interest to the Chapter history.
MR. METZGER: Oh, absolutely it would be.
DR. GLENN: And coming back we got tied up in an unexpected government check, and we sat in buses on the other side till we could get back across the border. We sat in those buses for a couple of hours before we got back across the border into the United States.
Another Chapter meeting was held in New Orleans, and, I will say this, our primary interest at that time was in gourmet food, and we had people there that took us out to some of the finest restaurants you ever saw in your life. So you go from one extreme to the other when you go from one end of the Chapter to another.
MR. METZGER: John Hidalgo mentioned that in the early days, physicians and scientists realized that they had to communicate better with one another. The physicians needed to make known some facts of human physiology, and the scientists needed to explain the physics behind the radiopharmaceuticals, but could you describe this lack of a radiopharmacy connection a little bit more?
DR. GLENN: When I was working with Abbott Laboratories, I visited the schools of pharmacy in quite a few states, and I would talk to the boards of pharmacy trying to encourage the development of radiopharmacy. The typical response was I was invited down to spend one hour with the dean of the school of pharmacy. I would spend one hour with the pharmacy research aspects of it, and finally I would get down to a bench man who had done some research with carbon-14, and there was absolutely no radiopharmacy. Radiopharmacy was taught, I think, in only three locations in the whole country.
And that was one of the things that I did when I was with Abbott Laboratories was try to introduce into pharmacy the aspect of radiopharmacy so that radiopharmacy could take its rightful place in the support of nuclear medicine, the physician, the drug, and the physicist.
MR. LAZARRE: What are your recollections about Herb Allen?
DR. GLENN: Herb Allen was a frontrunner. Herb did a lot of evaluation for me in in-vitro testing. I got very much involved in in-vitro testing during the last years I was with Abbott Laboratories, and I also kept my finger in it a bit at M.D. Anderson when I was there. But Herb Allen was one of the clinical evaluators I had in in-vitro testing, for thyroid in-vitro testing at that time, as was Phil Johnson, as was Tom Haynie.
That was why I kept coming back to Houston all the time. And when I was finally recommended by Bill Palmer (Walter W. Palmer) to take over that spot at M.D. Anderson, I was happy to accept.
Herb Allen did a lot of work in in-vitro testing. Now, that was my contact with him. I wasn't always approving of some of the techniques that were used at his laboratory, but—no question about it—he was a frontrunner in nuclear medicine in the Southwestern Chapter.
MR. LAZARRE: The Technologist Section had only been in existence approximately five years when you took over as President. What kind of relationship at that time did the physicians/scientists group have with the Technologist Section?
DR. GLENN: It completely depended upon where you were. It was a very strong relationship at some of the departments of nuclear medicine and some of the others had strong relationships but they kept a tighter rein, if you know what I mean, and the technologists were not permitted so much participation as they are now.
I was kind of involved as a consultant to the Technologist Section in the Southwestern Chapter as was Tom Haynie, and shortly before I retired, a couple of technologists showed up in my office and escorted me over to a local technology meeting, and they presented me with a plaque, and that plaque has always been in my den, and that plaque simply reads, “Presented to Howard J. Glenn, Ph.D. in appreciation for your efforts, dedication, and leadership in the field of radiopharmaceutical service, research and development, and teaching at home. We salute you.” That has always been one of the things that I have loved to keep on my wall. It was a complete surprise, a complete and utter surprise.
MR. LAZARRE: If you were able to influence the Society of Nuclear Medicine and the Southwestern Chapter again specifically, what recommendations would you have for them?
DR. GLENN: I would say: Don't be afraid to plunge into things where you have no business being, if you know what I mean. I used to go, as I said before, to schools of pharmacy and lecture, and pharmacists used to be invited to Abbott Laboratories and they were given a day, and we always had lectures covering different aspects of the field. Then they were taken to a ball game and taken out for a day, you know. It was a commercial development, and I was always asked to tell them a little bit about nuclear medicine. And one of the things I always emphasized was the fact that when I got my Ph.D. in '48 and started to work at Abbott Laboratories, nuclear pharmacy simply did not exist. There was nothing. There were maybe one or two schools in the country that even mentioned it.
I could talk to them and I would advise them—and this is where I got into big trouble—but I would advise them, and I would say, “Don't let your advisors control your life. Don't be afraid to step off the boat or step off the train and look at some of the sidelines, some of the little track lines. It's as you go through this that you're going to really find something interesting to do.”
I would get letters from their advisors saying, “We've been advising these people for years, and now you tell them don't pay any attention to them?” But nuclear medicine had grown sufficiently by then, and we've seen it go from therapy to imaging to dynamic studies.
So I would simply tell the technologists and nuclear medicine as a whole, don't be afraid to open your eyes and to look into areas where you have a strong personal interest. And perhaps you should be there, even though some people are telling you otherwise.
MR. LAZARRE: So is it fair to say that now you're probably a forerunner in the field of radiopharmacy?
DR. GLENN: I got involved not too long ago with a young fellow that was having some training at the National Institute for Health, and—this was only in the last few months—I was invited to some family party. And after we talked a little bit, he went out and got a paper that he had written involving I-131 or the iodination of a whole bunch of insulin derivatives and stuff like that.
And I looked at it, and I said, “Oh, I developed this. I was working with some in the National Institutes of Health and Bill Palmer when he was there and later on when he was at Duke. I said, “Yeah, I got involved with this. In fact, I've got a little series. I knew Bob Gore, and I knew all these people down there.” And this guy just looked at me like I didn't exist.
Well, we went back six months later for something else, and he was at this same event, and he turned to me and he says, “You're a pioneer.” He thought back and checked everything like that, and this was his summary of the whole thing. He put a word in front of “pioneer” that I won't put in, but nevertheless he said, “You're a pioneer.”
I would like to maybe mention again some of the wonderful people that I've run into: Johnny Hidalgo, Charlie Petty, Tom Haynie, Dan Hightower, Linda Monroe, Theda Driscoll, Winfield Evans, Raleigh Johnson, Paul Murphy, Martin Nusynowitz, and, oh, of a cookbook that his wife—I don't know if the Chapter knows about the wonderful cookbook that Marty Nusynowitz' wife produced. Oh, it was a wonderful cookbook. My wife used it for years. Phil Johnson, Herb Allen, all of these people have certainly influenced what I've been able to put into nuclear medicine and—people, people, people. They're the answer. The real value of the Chapter always comes down to people.