December 2004 Dialogue between Martin Nusynowitz, MD and Raleigh Johnson, PhD
DR. JOHNSON: Both of us had the privilege of serving in the Southwestern Chapter as presidents, and we're just going to go through times and memories about our serving as leaders in the Chapter and particularly during the years we were president and served on the Board of Trustees for the Southwestern Chapter. So I'm going to ask you, Marty, if you could just give a brief historical account of your coming into nuclear medicine, training, and how you ended up here.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: I was a resident in internal medicine at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, and there was a fellow by the name of Stan Newman who ran the endocrine radioisotope service, (that was what they called it back then) and I asked for some additional training in that, which was my last rotation on my internal medicine residency. The Army agreed and said that after my completion of last rotation of my medicine residency, they'd give me another three months in it. One month afterwards, after installing the head, Stan Newman got orders and left for Korea.
So the General called me into the office and said, “How would you like to be the staff faculty?” Well, I was still a resident, so I said, “Yes,” and I got out a nuclear medicine book and started reading it. I referred to a great pair of books which I still have in my office. One was on physics and one was on radioisotopes in medicine biology. The interesting thing is that after two months the next resident came along, Dave Preston who was in the Central Chapter. He was later a director and professor of nuclear medicine in Kansas City and I think at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. He had been a physics major in college, and so I think he taught me. Then I taught him. I was about a page ahead of him in the book, but the two of us struggled together.
I finished my duty there after another year and went to Walter Reed where I got involved in the research reactor down in the basement, and we made fluorine-18. We published a paper on the method of using it using oxygen-enriched water, which is what's used now, but we used the reactor as the source of our protons. How do you get a reactor to give you protons? The neutrons coming out of the fission process were hitting the hydrogen in the water molecule and bumping it into the oxygen atom to give us a proton method of making oxygen-18. Then we studied its metabolism and published in the '60s. That's how I got into nuclear medicine.
After that, the Army sent me to the Southwestern Chapter to William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso in 1965, and that's when I became very active in Chapter activities.
In 1970 the proponents of the Board of Nuclear Medicine published training requirements with the hope of establishing a board and set up an examination in 1972. In 1970, I set up a program, which was one of the first in the country, in the Southwest Chapter in the Army (the first in the Army). The first person I trained was Bob Lull who stayed in the Southwestern Chapter—in San Antonio—before he moved to San Francisco. When he got out of the Army, he became a professor at the University of California.
The second guy I trained was Ralph Blumhardt, who is in the Southwestern Chapter. He's director at the nuclear medicine program at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
During my time involved in Chapter activities, I became acquainted with a very great gentleman, a really top-notch man who I believe you are even closer to, and I'm talking about the late Ralph Gorten. Ralph was director of nuclear medicine here at Galveston. He told me he was going to go into private practice and asked would I be interested in coming here. I talked to the then chairman, and then decided to move from San Antonio to Galveston, and I've been here ever since.
DR. JOHNSON: Do you remember about what year that was?
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, I came here in 1982, and he spoke to me in '81. I retired from the Army and left El Paso in 1977, but while I was in El Paso, we had one heck of a Chapter meeting at the Juarez Racetrack, and I'll talk about that later.
DR. JOHNSON: Excellent. I'm just trying to remember the time when Ralph Gorten came to Galveston at UTMB. He was the one who hired me into nuclear medicine to join him at Duke University in 1969 when I was finishing up at Purdue. A good friend of mine, David Rollo, who was finishing his Ph.D. degree at Johns Hopkins called me one day and told me he had just had an interview at Duke and met this nice guy named Ralph Gorten but that he was going to go on and get his M.D. degree, and he suggested that I contact Ralph. So I went to Duke, got an interview, was accepted and became the nuclear medicine physicist at Duke University in '69. Around 1971, when Ralph decided to come to the University of Texas Medical Branch, he said, “When I go there, I'm going to try to get things settled down and I'd like to invite you to come and take a look at UTMB in Galveston and see if you'd like to come here.”
So I remember in late '71, I had an interview here at UTMB and was encouraged to come, and I arrived here in February, 1972. Ralph was here about ten years and served as director of nuclear medicine. He was the one who consistently encouraged me to get involved in the Society of Nuclear Medicine. He introduced me to all of the big names in nuclear medicine, including Martin Nusynowitz.
When I came to Galveston, he wanted me involved in the activities in the Southwestern Chapter. Progressively I got more and more involved, and I had the privilege, as you did earlier, to be on the Board of Trustees and also to serve as a president-elect and then president for the Chapter.
We have a list here of all of the past presidents and my recollection of what an impact the presidents had on the way nuclear medicine developed in this region in Southwestern Chapter is because of the leadership qualities of the men mentioned here. In fact, I go all the way back to Jack Maxfield who was the second president in the Southwestern Chapter. I didn't know Jack, but it turned out that when I served as president, that was the year Jack died.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, you brought up a number of interesting things. First of all, I knew Jack slightly, and his brother J. R. was a character out of the television show "Dallas." He was a big, imposing man, always wore western-cut suits, bolo ties, big diamonds, gold tips, talked like a good ol' boy, and he was Chapter president too. He founded the American Board of Nuclear Medicine along with Jack and their other brother, Bill Maxfield. The whole Maxfield clan made great contributions, but you touched on a point that I'd like to emphasize.
Not only were there a great bunch of great guys in the Chapter, but these same great people had tremendous influence on the national Society of Nuclear Medicine and I'm talking about John Burdine who was, I think, instrumental in being one of the founders of the American College of Nuclear Physicians, and Paul Murphy was a National president. The Chapter has the Ted Bloch Memorial Award and when Ted was president, I attended the meeting in New Orleans where he was at the Oshner Clinic, and I remember a wonderful dinner at one of the great restaurants down there. It was a great meeting.
Ralph Gorten organized a wonderful meeting here in Galveston many years ago which was at the old Seaquarium and the Flagship Hotel. Since then we've had several meetings in recent years in Galveston that have been excellent.
When John Burdine was president, the National meeting was held in Houston just up the street. When you talk about people in the Chapter, you must talk about Tom Haynie, a great leader in the field of nuclear medicine, both on Chapter and on National levels, and Winfield Evans, Charlie Petty, John Hidalgo. These are great names in nuclear medicine, not only in the Chapter, but also nationally-respected, nationally-known people who made great contributions to the field.
DR. JOHNSON: Let me mention the program when Dr. Nusynowitz served as president in the Chapter in 1979 at the San Antonio Hotel. The only thing I really remember about this is where we were all bussed out to Los Patios and had a great dinner in San Antonio. This was in '79, and here's what I want to do, if I can find the program that was in 1981. This program was when Dr. Ralph Gorten was president, two years after you were president, in 1981 in New Orleans and of course New Orleans is always a great place to have a meeting.
And then I had the privilege of being the president in 1983. Turned out that this one was in Oklahoma City in 1983, and even though I was the president, the thing I remember the most was the social event at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Joe Leonard and Bill Allen both made arrangements, and we had a great time.
Here's what I wanted to do. Let me mention some of these presidents and if something comes up in the way of a remembrance, then you comment. Henry Turner was the first president. I don't remember him.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Henry Turner one of the founders of the Society of Nuclear Medicine, if I'm not mistaken.
DR. JOHNSON: So Henry Turner and then we go on up, and right after Jack Maxfield was Herb Allen.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Oh, Herb was a really unusual man in practice of nuclear medicine in Houston. Herb did the first scan ever of the thyroid using a rectilinear scanner.
DR. JOHNSON: As a matter of fact, when I came here, because Herb Allen was so well known and he was just great in doing imaging, I went down to his clinic in Houston, and I saw this Picker scanner that had the teledeltose printout. These were problematic because technologists would often get shocked when they put their hand on the table and the printer’s electrical arc would pierce the paper, leaving a little burn mark in the paper (and sometimes shocking a technologist).
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: When I first started, I must have had the second scanner. This was back when I first started in nuclear medicine in the late '60s before Picker came out with their scanner. They had a one-inch crystal and a solenoid-activated tapper. What you do is you put a piece of carbon paper facing up on a slick surface. The tapper hit it and drove the imprint of carbon onto the piece of paper, and that was your thyroid scan. And you know something? It worked.
DR. JOHNSON: There was Peter Russo and there was Samuel Nadler and then after him was John Hidalgo.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Yeah. On our way to a New Orleans meeting six or eight years ago on the airplane I happened to read of J. R. Maxfield's demise, and so I got to the meeting, and they asked for John Hidalgo, and he wasn't there yet. So they asked me to stand up and say a few words about J. R., which I did, and then John walked in, and this man is terrific, a terrific physicist, and he continued the eulogy for J. R. John was very active in the profession and an extremely insightful man.
DR. JOHNSON: Yeah. I got to know John even better when he served as the executive secretary for the Chapter. He and his wife made all the arrangements for our meetings.
The next presidents after John Hidalgo were Ruskin Norman, James Chamberlin, and then Fred Bonte.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, Fred is an interesting, interesting man. I first met Fred when I was in El Paso, Texas, and I invited him to come down to speak at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. This was probably 1968 or 1969 and he came down and lectured.
Fred is a national figure. He came out with Bob Parkey who, when Fred was chief of nuclear medicine in the radiology department, was assistant. When Fred became chairman, Parkey, you know, took over nuclear medicine; and when Fred became dean of nuclear medicine, Parkey became chairman of the radiology department.
So I said to Fred, How did you and Bob Parkey figure out this way of imaging myocardial infarcts? He told me this story over dinner in Juarez, Mexico. He said, I was sitting in the dean's office one day as the dean and the chairman of pathology came in with the chairman of another department, and they're arguing who should get an electron microscope, and one of them says, “We want to study necrosis in myocardial tissue, and why you get calcification in it.” And the other guy said, “We did that experiment a long time ago. You get calcification and microcalcification in areas of necrosis.”
And Bonte said, “Sit right there, gentlemen.” He runs down to see Parkey, and he says, “Get some dogs. Give them a myocardial infarction and give them pyrophosphate,” which we were using for bone imaging at that time and which gets attracted to calcium crystals. “See if you can image the infarction.” And of course they could, and that's why that was a clue for visualizing myocardial infarctions. Fred’s still active in research after retiring as dean. He's doing a lot of brain research right now in Dallas at the university there.
DR. JOHNSON: The next president was Donald Sutherland and after him was J. R. Maxfield.
Let me tell you about a funny story I had about J. R. because you said he reminded us of “Dallas,” the TV series. When I came to Texas and met J. R., I saw what a bigger-than-life kind of person he was at the Chapter meetings. He didn't know me from Adam, but I was impressed with this guy and how he just boldly went wherever man wouldn't go, and I remember being so impressed with him.
I recall seeing him at a Board of Trustees meeting for the national Society of Nuclear Medicine. The room was full, and I sat down in the back beside J. R., where he was stretched out in the chair with his arms crossed. He had his gold-tipped cowboy boots, and he was snoring. I was just listening to the activities when someone came into the darkened room who knew J. R. and shook him and said, “I've got this message. Somebody in this room has a telephone call; do you know who this person is? Maybe you can find out who this might be.”
J. R. was sitting beside me and he sat up in his chair. He was looking at the piece of paper and looking around the room. He didn't know me, but he nudged me, and he said, “Do you know a Raleigh Johnson? Raleigh Johnson has got a phone message.” I thought, wow, what kind of coincidence is this, and I told him that was me and he started laughing. That was my first real personal encounter with J. R.
Well after that, as I became more involved with the Chapter, I was thinking, these men have such high presence in the Society of Nuclear Medicine, and we see less of them, but it would be great to have a historical account of who these people are and learn a little bit about their background and what an impact they had in the Society. So at one Society meeting, I got J.R. aside and I asked, “J. R., is there any way in the world that I could interview you and talk with you?”
We met at his clinic, and as we chatted he started telling me about things that had happened to him in his life. Then he gave me this book titled A New Command written by Gordon Harris and it was published in 1976. He had dog-eared three pages in it. A New Command is a story about General Bruce Medaris, who eventually became a priest, and this was his life story written by Gordon Harris.
Well, it turns out that this general, Bruce Medaris, ran into J. R. in Dallas a few times. The first dog-eared portion of it says that Bruce Medaris developed bone cancer that threatened to end his life, and when he found out that he had bone cancer, he needed to find out what to do about it, and how things might go with him. It says that physicians had given him about year or two at the most and that he needed to put his affairs in order. The physicians are mentioned and one of them happened to be J. R. There was this other page that was about how Bruce Medaris was involved in NASA's developing of the Saturn V rocket to go to the moon. It says the rocket builder arranged for him to talk to Dr. Maxfield at the Kennedy Space Center because J. R. Maxfield was so interested in the space program. He would always go down to see a launch, and Bruce Medaris was involved in this and someone suggested that since Dr. Maxfield is knowledgeable about cancer treatment and such that he should see him. The recommendation to go see J. R. was from Werner von Braun, and Medaris said, “Werner’s recommendation and my talk with Jim Maxfield had convinced me that I ought to go to Dallas and find out what's going on.”
The book says that Dr. Maxfield demonstrated his equipment, an electronic scanning device that traced radioactive particles as they circulate in the patient's blood; and where cancer cells existed, the scanner pinpointed their location within the body. The Maxfields were among the pioneers in this. He used the strontium isotope that was implanted in Bruce, and after he dined with Dr. Maxfield, it says the next morning he got scanned, and the distribution of the tracer apparently was not as great, and so Dr. Maxfield told him that it seemed that his cancer had sort of stabilized and hadn't spread.
Toward the end of the book, Bruce’s cancer began to return, and it says that he went to see Dr. Maxfield in Dallas to find out what could be done. In this case, Dr. Maxfield inserted tiny cobalt seeds to irradiate the tumor which was in the lower jaw. He followed a predetermined pattern, measured the level of the radioactivity as the work progressed, and employed a lead shield of extreme thinness. The shield topped off the plate containing the seeds, and this plate was inserted in his mouth, under his tongue.
This whole process took place and the end of the story was that General Bruce Medaris' life was spared, and he actually survived way beyond the years of his cancer, and as a result of that became a priest. What was cool and precious to me is that Dr. Maxfield gave me his copy of the book, including a comment on the front: “Especially for my friend Raleigh Johnson, with best wishes, Dr. Jim Maxfield.” Also written there is: “From the library of the very Reverend J. Bruce Medaris, this was written in honor of J. R. Maxfield, and this book was presented to Dr. Maxfield.”
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Winfield Evans was a physicist from Oklahoma who was president, and one thing I pride the Chapter on is that you go through the list of presidents in the chapters, you know, the National Society has a policy that every fourth year a non-physician -- a physicist, or a pharmacist, or a chemist or something -- gets a shot at it. Our Chapter just looks for the best people, and Raleigh Johnson is a physicist who was a president, and Winfield Evans was a physicist who was a president, and John Hidalgo is a physicist who was a president, and Paul Murphy is a physicist who was a president, and we just went after the best people, and they are top-notch people. Paul Palmer was a president as well.
I was in El Paso for 12 years. I got there in '65 and retired from the Army in '77. During that period of time, I was program chairman for a Chapter meeting. I volunteered to do the job. I once volunteered to do the job as finance committee chair for the National Society, and one of the very distinguished National members, also a physicist, came up to me and said, “Well, we finally found somebody smart enough to do the job but stupid enough to take it.” And that's just what happened with the committee chairmanship.
The meeting went very well. It was in the downtown hotel in El Paso in their meeting rooms. We had our big celebration at the Juarez racetrack where we saw dog races, and had a dinner and all of that; it almost turned out to be a big disaster because although we contracted for the buses to take us over there, we waited, and we waited, and we made calls, and we went crazy. The bus drivers decided they weren't going to show up, and so we had to do a lot of pleading and begging. They finally came and we went over there, and they dedicated the race to the Chapter. They dedicated dogs to us! Take that for whatever it means.
They made a presentation, and I have a picture someplace with Charlie Petty and me and Winfield Evans being presented with a special award and having a race named in honor of the Chapter. It was an awful lot of fun. It was a fun meeting. I got a note from our executive director, Charlie Metzger, that said that all Charlie Petty remembers was all the sand blowing through his hotel room through the window cracks while he was in El Paso. He thought that was an unusual event, but that's what happens every day when you live in El Paso, Texas.
DR. JOHNSON: I remember that racetrack because that was the social event for the meeting. And I remember we all gathered and there was food, and everybody was sitting in the different tiers overlooking the track, and I remember people were putting down some bets and so forth, and I didn't win any. When it came to the last dog race, I remember we kept prodding Dan Hightower saying, “Dan, you're an animal doctor. Tell us, what's the clue here to get the right dog?” Dan didn't have a clue either. We were all sitting there just having a good time and all of a sudden this dog jumped over the back of another dog, took off, won the race, and everybody just went berserk because of that funny ending.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Isn't it ironic that the most memorable thing about the Chapter that we've been talking about has been this dog track?
DR. JOHNSON: I remember from a previous experience when I was at the University of Miami in Florida going to a horse race. I said, “Let's try this same trick. On the last race, let's pick the dog that has the highest odds against winning anything.” Dan said, “Good idea,” so everybody put in two bucks' worth toward a bet on the dog, and I said, “Don't just bet that it will show, but bet that this dog is going to win.” And the dog won! Everybody made a lot of money that night.
DR. JOHNSON: Well, let me ask you if you remember Tom Haynie.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, of course we remember Tom Haynie. I've got to say a couple of things about Tom Haynie. Tom is one of the brightest men I've ever met. He's still around and kicking. His wife Betty passed away. She was a lovely woman.
Tom was here before Ralph Gorten at this school, and then he moved to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Tom would always entertain us with parrot jokes at every one of our Chapter meetings. He always had a parrot joke, but he did some very pioneering work. For example, he did the first pancreas scan using selenomethionine and published it, so I once asked Tom, “How did you ever come up with the idea. You know, it's a beautiful picture. We've tried it. What's your secret? I'm not having any luck.” He said, “That was the one and only time we had any luck too.” He is a great guy. I learned a lot from him because he always had great insights and a great way of presenting those insights.
DR. JOHNSON: William C. Banks, who was a veterinary doctor, followed Tom Haynie and then after Dr. Banks was Phillip Johnson.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Phil Johnson I remember very well. There were two Phil Johnsons in the Society of Nuclear Medicine, one at Columbia, and one here in Houston, and they both were very prominent in the field. I guess if your name is Phil Johnson, you're guaranteed to win something.
DR. JOHNSON: After Dr. Johnson was Carl Smith. Bill Maxfield followed him.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Oh, Bill is unforgettable. He's still around. I still hear from him every once in a while. I still see him at meetings. He's in Florida, and he's doing some work on body composition at the present time, I believe. He was the youngest of the Maxfield brothers and still very active in nuclear medicine and scientific inquiries and a heck of a nice guy.
DR. JOHNSON: Yeah. I just remember him being a very prominent and a very important man. To me, he seemed so important in the Chapter in the activities that he was involved in, and then Felix Pircher was after Bill Maxfield.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, Felix was head of nuclear medicine at the veteran's hospital here in Houston for many years and was always one of the leaders of the Society, always head of the Chapter, and always had a lot to contribute.
DR. JOHNSON: Felix lived up in the area where Ralph Gorten lived and where I lived in the Clear Lake, Nassau Bay area, and I remember having many social dinners with Felix. He was always fun to talk with and talk to and he had good insight into the Chapter. And then of course after Felix was John Burdine.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, I was very friendly with John. John was a man of immense proportions in every way, physically, intellectually. He was not only a leader in the Chapter, he was a president of the national Society. He became CEO of the St. Luke's Episcopal system in Houston, and I believe he was the person responsible for building the twin medical towers in that system.
John was a true gentleman and a great gourmet. I remember once inviting him down as a consultant to El Paso, and he came and I took him across the border to Juarez for a Mexican dinner, and when the waiter handed him the menu, John looked at the entire list and said "Yes" and proceeded to polish everything off. It was a pleasure watching.
DR. JOHNSON: Ted Bloch was the president who followed John.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Yes, and there's a Ted Bloch Memorial Award for the Chapter. I believe Ted was president when we had the meeting following the Galveston meeting. I believe it was in New Orleans. And Ted was at Ochsner Clinic, I think, and Ted was very well connected. Once, we had our board of trustees meeting in the wine-tasting room at Arnaud's, and that was a memorable experience. Ted was a fine gentleman, an excellent nuclear physician, and the Chapter lost a great member when Ted passed away shortly after the meeting.
DR. JOHNSON: That's right. The Board of Trustees for the Chapter occasionally needed to appoint a Ph.D. and encouraged that they be put in as president, and Howard Glenn was one after a long, sort of a drought. Winfield Evans was the only other one before that, so several years passed before another Ph.D. became president, and Howard Glenn was the one that was elected.
I vaguely remember when I first met Howard. I think he was a chemist, and I think he was very prominent in the Chapter in pursuing and organizing and encouraging that the role of a radiopharmacist should be included as a significant contributor to the Society of Nuclear Medicine.
DR. JOHNSON: Well, beyond that, Charles Petty was the next president.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Right, and Charlie is a great guy; everybody loved Charlie.
DR. JOHNSON: Charlie was at Scott & White. In my experience of becoming familiar with the officers and the leadership in the Chapter, Charlie was always interested in things that I did. He was supportive of things that I was interested in, and at board meetings, I remember Charlie always had really important things to say; and my recollection of most of the board meetings was that there were certain past presidents who whenever they opened their mouth, everybody listened, and certainly Charlie Petty was one of those. As a matter of fact, I remember I suggested to the board that there be a Past Presidents Committee, because past presidents were falling off the list.
The bylaws said that the past president would always have membership on the Board of Trustees, but after five years would lose the voting privilege. And so I noticed that as past presidents sort of got beyond five years, they didn't show up at board meetings, and the contributions they made were obviously dwindling, and I remember when it came Charlie Petty's time to kind of go beyond the five years, he came to board meetings maybe two years after his five years, like seven years out, and then he said to me during a board meeting, “What's the point in coming if you can't have a vote?” I really didn't like the idea that guys like Charlie Petty, Tom Haynie, Ralph, and Charlie Boyd and even back to J. R. Maxfield and Bill Maxfield and all of the past presidents that were sort of my contemporaries would be missing on the board. I hated the fact that they weren't attending board meetings and contributing because they always seemed to have so much to say So I remember recommending it, and, in fact, I think it passed during Dan Hightower's time as president, that the board approved the Past Presidents Committee, and the Past Presidents Committee could be any of the guys that were past presidents, and they always had a vote on the board as a committee. Whoever was the chair of that committee was allowed to come to the board meeting to have a vote. And the election of the past presidents chair came only from the past presidents.
So that's about all I can remember contributing to the Chapter, mainly because I have such respect for all of the past presidents and the people that we just talked about here, and you in particular, because I've had the privilege of working with you for a lot more years.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Yeah. Well, you know, I have to smile a little bit. I'm sure many of the current membership of the Chapter remember Charlie Petty, but if I had to sum up Charlie Petty in one phrase, I think we'd all agree that he was a giant among men.
DR. JOHNSON: He was…he definitely was that, and there was some person who came after Charlie Petty, and I think his name was Marty Nusynowitz. Why don't you just tell us what you think or remember what happened when you were president?
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, you know, I can remember what happened in 1938 pretty well, but I'm not sure I can remember anything after that at my age. I think that I just tried to follow in the footsteps of my predecessors, keep the Chapter healthy, keep the meetings going, but I don't think I did any great shakes. I think I was president the year that the Chapter program which was in San Antonio in March of 1979.
DR. JOHNSON: And I remember we had Dennis Patton and Allen Hughes, and Mary Louise Mueller who were all guest speakers and Robert Beck from Chicago. I remember it being just an incredible meeting that you served as president.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, thank you, Raleigh. I have to say that almost every meeting of the Chapter that I attended has been an excellent educational and social experience both, and I'm looking forward to going to the Chapter meeting in April, and I just put in my papers today, so I'm looking for that, back to San Antonio.
DR. JOHNSON: Yes. Charlie Boyd was the president following you.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Right. I sat with Charles Boyd at the last meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine. They had a nice social evening, and I know Charlie from the fact that I was thinking of getting out of the Army, and I interviewed for a job in Michigan at the V.A. hospital with Dr. Beierwaltes, and I decided to stay in the Army, and Charlie took the job.
And then he went down to Little Rock and worked with Dalrymple down there, and then he took over as head. Charlie and I have been friends from way back when, and I even knew Charlie's dad, and Charlie and his dad were like twin brothers, but I had the great pleasure of sitting with Charlie Boyd at the social last June. It was good rehashing old times.
DR. JOHNSON: Yeah. My experience with Charlie was that he was just another one of these giants in nuclear medicine and particularly in the Chapter.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Absolutely. He wrote a good book with Dalrymple on physics of nuclear medicine. It's still a very useful book. Think you ought to tell the membership about Ralph Gorten as much as you can?
DR. JOHNSON: Well, I remember Ralph was the one who hired me to come to Duke when he was there as I was finishing my Ph.D. at Purdue and introduced me to nuclear medicine. He was a great nuclear medicine physician. He was a very good boss.
He left Duke to come to UTMB in Galveston and obviously became a part of the Southwestern Chapter, and one of the things that I really owe to Ralph—and I thought was just amazing for anybody that I've ever met—was that whenever we had meetings at Chapter and also at the National meeting, he would introduce me to the prominent people in the Society and in the Chapter, and that's how I got to know such important and prominent figures in the Chapter such as yourself.
We had lots of social time together, dinners and opportunities to talk about the science and the medicine of nuclear medicine and how important it was, and I don't know of anybody that really had a greater interest and a commitment to advancing nuclear medicine and promoting it as Ralph.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, I'd like to add two things about Ralph. First, I think Ralph had three great loves. Number one is his wife Kay who still lives near here, and who we bump into and hear from occasionally. She's doing well. Second would be nuclear medicine, especially cardiovascular nuclear medicine. Ralph was one of the pioneers in cardiovascular nuclear medicine for a lot of the early important work. And his third great love was sailing. Ralph loved to sail and invited me and my wife to go sailing with him many times. My wife was a sailor too. I had a Day Sailer, so I knew a little bit about sailing, but not as much as Ralph or my wife, and the two of them would get into big discussions about sailboats.
Another thing about Ralph is that in 1981 we had a National meeting in Las Vegas, and Ralph approached me, I was in San Antonio at the time, and he said that he was leaving the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) to go into private practice with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, and he asked if I would I be interested in a position. I said that I’d look into it, and I ended up here in 1982. Ralph is responsible for that. And I always thought of Ralph as one of the finest people I've ever met. Unfortunately he passed away four years ago from a stroke, and we all miss him sorely.
DR. JOHNSON: Yes. Ralph, as you mentioned, was a great sailor. He wanted me to sail with him a lot, and I hated it. I'd get seasick like you couldn't believe, and I remember we would always pick a day when it was really choppy water, and I would hang out of that boat and try my best not to throw up all over him. I remember actually the Monday before he passed away from a stroke, he invited my wife and I to go sailing with him and Kay. Most beautiful pleasant sailing trip I've ever been on. It was a great social time. He and I talked, and I was telling my wife when we left that that was really peculiar because I don't know that I've ever had a more enjoyable time sailing. And then the very next day Kay called me and told me about Ralph having a major stroke. That was just so devastating.
It turned out that the Chapter’s annual meeting was in New Orleans when Ralph was president in 1981, and it was during his presidency that I designed the Southwestern Chapter’s logo. I got an artist here at UTMB to put it together and gave this to the Chapter, and it is our official logo. This caduceus is unique. There isn't any other drawing like this that represents the caduceus for medicine, and 1981 is the first time it appeared.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: You know, you mentioned sailing, and I've got to tell you a little bit of an amusing story. Those of us who cut our teeth in nuclear medicine all knew Dr. William Beierwaltes. Dr. Beierwaltes was at the University of Michigan and was one of the true giants of nuclear medicine, an amazing man.
I had Bill down to El Paso as a consultant one year when I was stationed there in the Army, and I took him sailing. There's a tiny lake in El Paso called Escarte Lake. It maybe measures three-quarters of a mile long and maybe 200 yards wide, but I had my Snipe in there. Bill came, and I said, “Do you want to go sailing? I've got my Snipe in the lake.” He said, “Oh, yeah. I love to sail.”
He was a big sailor. He always went to those big races from the upper peninsula of Michigan down to Detroit, and he saw the boat, and he said, “That's a Snipe. That was my first sailboat.” I said, “When was that, Bill?” It was the year before I was born. He said he built Snipe number two or number three. He and his brother built them out of plans, and he built Snipe number 3. Mine was, like, 13,486 or something like that. Anyway, we went sailing on this little lake, and we had a nice time.
DR. JOHNSON: One of the things I remember being program chairman for Paul Murphy when he was president was that we invited Henry Wagner and another physician, I can't remember, from Montreal who was our guest speakers.
Anyway, he came, and I was program chairman, and I remember that this is the way that I developed a lot of respect for the former past presidents and the members who were officers in the Chapter and their help. As program chairman, there was something that I wanted to do that I thought would be unique for the Chapter, and I remember suggesting to the Board of Trustees that I wanted to be able to give a memento to our guest speakers and to our past presidents. It turned out that our immediate past president was Ralph Gorten, and before him was Charlie Boyd. I suggested that we need to do something, and that it be something we do all the time and that is to offer past presidents a memento for their service that they would remember and it would be peculiar.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: I have a feeling I know what it is. You want me to guess?
DR. JOHNSON: Go ahead and guess.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: A Stetson hat.
DR. JOHNSON: Right, so I went to downtown Houston and searched and found where they make Stetson hats and picked four Stetson hats. The treasurer about fell over.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: That was our budget for the year.
DR. JOHNSON: And I remember getting support from guys like Lynn Witherspoon and Stan Schubert who were on the board, and they said, Look, Raleigh is the program chairman. This is what he wants to do. Yes, this is a little bit out of the ordinary, but it is something unique to the Chapter, and so that's what we did, and I remember having to call Henry Wagner's wife and this other guy's wife from Montreal to get the hat size because we were going to give it to them. We had probably one of the most fun social things which was at this dinner theater near the Astrodome where Ralph and Charlie Boyd and Henry Wagner and the other guy were all roasted by the guy who ran the dinner theater. Everybody thought these social events were a waste of time. This turned out to be one of the funniest dinners we've ever had before.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: I never thought the social event was a waste of time. I mean, that's where you meet people and come to life. You get to talk to them to see who they are and get an idea of what they are, and it really makes for great congeniality and a great spirit in the Chapter, and that's what I love about the Chapter. It has a lot of spirit.
DR. JOHNSON: Well, the reason I wanted the cowboy hats was that I figured that somewhere down the road the Chapter will eventually come to a 50th anniversary and that it would be great to invite all of the past presidents to come and to be a part of the program and they should all be coming with their cowboy hats. I said that from the time that we suggested we do this that it should become a routine and just something we always do. Well, that obviously didn't happen until recently actually where I think Tom Haynie and Paul Murphy were given cowboy hats or Stetsons. I thought it was a cool idea.
Did you get one?
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: No. I went into a store and tried one on. My wife nearly fell on the floor laughing, so that was my experiment with cowboy hats. Actually somebody once said when I tried it on that the clothes don't go with the nose.
DR. JOHNSON: Okay. Well, following Paul Murphy, then I became president and had the privilege of working with the Chapter, and our meeting was in Oklahoma City. Joe Leonard and Bill Allen made arrangements for us to have our social event at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Great, great social event, I remember we had a great time there. Following me was Turner Harris as Chapter president. Turner was very supportive of me, and I tried to help him by preparing him to become president the next year. It was a lot of fun knowing Turner and Jerry Prather.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, you know, I was thinking about meetings in Oklahoma and meetings in Arkansas, and we used to be a four-state chapter. Then Mike Hartshorne, who is kind of my intellectual grandson because I trained Bob Lull and Bob Lull trained Mike Hartshorne, and we have a picture of us sitting on a staircase one on top of the other; but Mike was up in New Mexico and still is, and he found that he was kind of isolated. He didn't know what chapter he belonged to, so he made a move to bring New Mexico into the Chapter. And now we're a five-state chapter.
DR. JOHNSON: The president who followed Turner was Dan Hightower. I can think of so many things about Dan, and I am just absolutely impressed that some guy would develop nuclear medicine in the area of veterinary medicine as well as he did.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, I got to know Dan very well. He was very friendly. Dan was a doctor of veterinary medicine and professor of nuclear medicine at Texas A&M veterinary school, and I think that Dan probably was the former of veterinary nuclear medicine, and I think our Chapter can take great pride in that. No jokes about the Aggies, please. Dan applied nuclear medicine to animal medicine. I remember he had a heck of a time getting equipment for his studies while I was in San Antonio and here at UTMB.
In spite of the antagonism between UT and A&M, whenever we had equipment we were going to trade in, we didn't trade it in. Instead, we shipped it up to Dan, because he didn't have much of a budget. He kept scrounging equipment, and he'd come to us and ask, “You got any equipment you've got to get rid of?” And we said, “Sure,” and we shipped it up to A&M. One of the things that they were doing was checking to see if race horses had small fractures, and that's why they were limping or couldn't run. Dan used bone scanning to check the leg bones of racehorses using the somewhat obsolete, but very functional, scintillation cameras that were sent up to him. He'd make an early diagnosis, put the horse on rest, and the horse could run again.
DR. JOHNSON: I remember visiting Dan at A&M, watching him do gamma camera imaging or scintillation imaging of horses and how he put this all on a huge gantry over on the overhead in order to image these big animals. He told us about imaging everything from snakes to elephants. He took care of everything.
I remember he gave a talk in one of the nuclear medicine meetings where he did a scan of a snake, and to inject the snake you have to inject under the tongue, and he got one of his techs to open this snake's mouth and the tongue is out here sniffing away, and they had to get in under the tongue to get it into the vein. Then they did the injection, and he showed images of doing a technetium-labeled scan on a snake. It was an amazing scan and everybody was so interested in how in the world -- first of all, why in the world would you do this?
Well, Dan is a great guy, and I just can't say enough about how much he influenced me and what impressed me about the way nuclear medicine not only was a clinical issue for patients but also for animals.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Yeah. He used to call me and ask me how to treat cats with hyperthyroidism. It's a very common disease in cats apparently. I used to run the lab work for him for his hyperthyroid cats and he'd treat them with radioiodine.
DR. JOHNSON: So Dan was a pioneer in the field of veterinary nuclear medicine. Well, following Dan as president was Bob Sonnemaker.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Oh, Bob worked for me while he was in the Army. John Burdine called me up and said, “I've got this good nuclear physician, and he needs a home in the Army. I said, “I just happen to have a spot.” Since I was consulting for the Army Surgeon General, I recommended assignments. I didn't make them. I just recommended them. If they listened to me, sometimes it worked.
Well, Bob came to work with me for two years, and we got very close. When Bob got out of the Army, he joined Stan Schuller and Lynn Witherspoon at the Ochsner Clinic. That was after Ted Bloch passed away, and they worked together as a big group and did a lot of great things in nuclear medicine.
Lynn was kind of a leader in radioimmunoassay, and they were all great clinicians. I think Bob's in private practice now. Lynn is still at Ochsner Clinic, I believe, and Stan Schuller is retired.
DR. JOHNSON: But I remember Bob liked one of our technologists that we had here at UTMB, really a very pleasant-looking girl, and married her.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: I'm glad he did because they had a baby. I think he's in Missouri now practicing nuclear medicine.
DR. JOHNSON: Joe Leonard was the president following Bob Sonnemaker.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Yeah, and Joe and I go back many years. He was always a great contributor to the Society. You always count on him to do committee work of the highest type and the roughest type.
DR. JOHNSON: Well, I always appreciated the comments Joe would make at board meetings. He always contributed a lot, and things he said were always important. I got to know him really well when I was president and we had our meeting in Oklahoma City because he sat down with me and told me a lot about Oklahoma and things going on there. Of course, Bill Allen was his right-hand man, and they almost seemed like a duo. And then following Joe Leonard was Linda Monroe, Ph.D.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: I know Linda Monroe. Linda was head of the laboratory services -- what a trio -- John Burdine, the chief physician, Linda Monroe, chief laboratory immunoassay person, and Paul Murphy, the physicist. They were all Chapter presidents from the same institution, same Episcopal system; and Linda was a charming lady and ran a great practice with Dr. Burdine and ran a great shop as president, and then I think she went into administration at St. Luke's.
DR. JOHNSON: Okay. Well, I appreciated Linda too. She was someone who was always looking to advance nuclear medicine and radioimmunoassays and broaden the scope of nuclear medicine, and Lynn Witherspoon was the president following her.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Lynn was one of the intellects of the Society, and again a great leader. We've been very fortunate.
DR. JOHNSON: Well, I remember Lynn because he and Stan Schuller and that whole group at Ochsner Clinic were involved in the board meetings and the committee meetings when I was president and when I was program chairman, and I remember they gave me more support and encouraged me in areas that I didn't know if I should talk about this or request this. I always enjoyed talking with Lynn because he was so smart, and so good with radioimmunoassay studies.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: It's a pity that we let immunoassay get out of our hands.
DR. JOHNSON: Yeah, I remember bemoaning the loss of it here at UTMB.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: Well, God knows there are certain labs doing it now and they are not doing such a swift job.
DR. NUSYNOWITZ: I've got to say one other thing. You know, we've been talking about the past presidents, but the past presidents come and go, but there are many other positions in the Chapter in the Society which are vitally important to the functioning of these institutions as educational, investigative, social, and politically active organizations, and that's certainly the rank and file, but also the people who serve on committees, the people who serve as trustees, the people who are actively engaged in making the committee chairman, the finance committee chairman to make sure that we have some money left for next year to do all of our activities and our meetings, the program chairman who put these things together, the trustees who set the policy.
You know, we're all in this together and that's what keeps the organization viable and healthy, and I'd like to mention our executive director. Charlie Metzger has done a superb job these last number of years, and Joan, his predecessor, did a fine job, and John Hidalgo as well and the people before them, so we've been very blessed. We've been very blessed with a strong cadre of people working to keep the Chapter going strong and healthy and productive, and I'm very privileged to have served and to be a member and I hope to keep coming for the next 20 meetings.
DR. JOHNSON: Yes. I too would like to say it's been a privilege to serve in the Chapter and to be a part of this Chapter. To me, it's the most unique of all of the chapters in the Society of Nuclear Medicine with a history that is just rich with interesting things and discoveries and contributions and growing of the discipline of nuclear medicine.
It's been a privilege doing this. I know we haven't covered the more recent presidents, but this is the list that I have, and Dr. Nusynowitz and I have enjoyed talking about the presidents that we knew. These were pretty much our contemporaries.