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OF CHARLIE PETTY, M.D.
December 1, 2004
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DR. MIDDLETON: I am honored to interview Dr. Charlie Petty who was president of the Southwest Chapter in 1973. Charlie, how did you first became involved with the Southwest Chapter leadership?
DR. PETTY: In 1973, I was appointed to the Nominating Committee to establish the nominees for the coming year. That meeting was held in Oklahoma City in the fall of 1973. Dr. J. R. Maxfield was chairman of that committee. At that time, my interest had been stimulated. I had spoken with several members in Texas about serving. I found that I was one of the few that had a list of names. Subsequently some of those names were accepted. At that time, I was designated as a nominee for the Board of Trustees. That was how I first became involved.
DR. MIDDLETON: I see. Charlie, when did you come to Texas and start working at Scott & White Clinic?
DR. PETTY: I had been interested in nuclear medicine. It didn't have a name yet. It was those crazy people that used radioisotopes during my radiology residency. After going out and practicing radiology for approximately six years, I suffered an injury and became fairly well disabled at that time. I decided that I didn't want to go back to the practice of radiology, because it required a lot of fluoroscopy including wearing heavy aprons and so forth. I decided that I'd take a real leap of faith and get into the field of radioisotope use in medicine. I looked for training opportunities. They were very scarce and were generally filled up. So I became an apprentice at the Baptist Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee in '66 and '67 after I recovered from surgery. In 1968, I had an invitation to visit the Scott & White Clinic & Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas. I saw a real desire to develop the field of radioisotope use in medicine. There were many opportunities that came along such as teaching, which I had no experience. They gave me pretty much an open hand. That was when I came in July of 1968 and began my tenure. It went on for 19 years.
DR. MIDDLETON: Excellent. You became active in the Southwest Chapter in 1973. What are the highlights at the time with the Southwest Chapter? What makes you most proud?
DR. PETTY: Well, the Southwest Chapter had many men involved with the organization. Dr. Tom Haynie, Dr. John Burdine, Dr. Martin Nusynowitz, and a group of physicians in Little Rock, Arkansas were there. The few meetings that I was able to attend early in that time, I was very impressed with their talents and their approach to this activity.
DR. MIDDLETON: Interesting. How about disappointments? Do you have any disappointments or failures or disasters that came up during your time with the Chapter that you can recall?
DR. PETTY: Not really. The Chapter, of course, represented Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, and the numbers that were active were rather small, especially compared to now. But real disappointments, not really.
DR. MIDDLETON: And you became Chapter president in 1978. Can you tell us how that happened? I realize that was about the time that Dr. Ted Block passed away.
DR. PETTY: Yes. Dr. Block was the acting president in the two years prior to when I became president. Dr. Howard Glenn was the vice president at that time, and I was, more or less, a secondary vice president. At that time the fall meeting was called for New Orleans, Louisiana where Dr. Block practiced and lived. Very regretfully, approximately two weeks before the meeting was to be held, Dr. Block had a severe heart attack and died. This placed Dr. Glenn in the position of having to assume the presidency, which he carried for a year and a half. I had to move up to sort of active vice president at that time for a year to a year and a half. My name was then put in nomination for the presidency. Very surprisingly to me, I was elected. That turned out to be a very active and wonderful experience in my life.
DR. MIDDLETON: Good. Can you tell me when you started your presidency? What was one of the main tasks you had to do?
DR. PETTY: Yes. One of the main tasks was to plan the meeting for the next year. It had been previously established that Little Rock, Arkansas would be the site. That required a number of visits because the facilities at that time were questionable in that area. Fortunately, there was a new hotel that was constructed. They had adequate facilities, not only to house the meeting, but to provide housing for the majority of the people that would attend. We had an unusually good response to that meeting.
DR. MIDDLETON: Okay. Very nice, Charlie. I understand during your time as president, that you had a large role in rewriting the bylaws for the organization at that time. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
DR. PETTY: When I first became involved with the Chapter, I requested that I have copies of the bylaws and the rules and regulations by which the Board of Trustees should act. The copies were rather poorly organized. In trying to deal with the office I had just backed into, I decided that I should assume the responsibility of rewriting these bylaws. The National Society of Nuclear Medicine had well delineated and organized bylaws with rules and regulations. So using that as a guide, I rough-drafted a rewrite of the bylaws. The job to put them in proper grammatical order was given to another doctor at the end of my actual tenure as president. He did a wonderful job of organizing and writing them. The bylaws were presented to the trustees during Dr. Nusynowitz's presidency. They were subsequently passed by the Board of Trustees and the Chapter at that time.
DR. MIDDLETON: Excellent. I imagine many of those bylaws are the basis for our current bylaws. Let me ask you what is your most memorable event or person that you came in contact with during your Chapter leadership?
DR. PETTY: Gee, that's hard to say. I had so many wonderful people that came to my aid. I arose to Chapter presidency at the meeting in El Paso. Dr. Nusynowitz had been the organizer. He was at that time in the military and stationed in El Paso. He had done a wonderful job of setting the meeting up. Unfortunately, the weather in El Paso was characteristically not overly pleasant. My plane was the last plane that was allowed to land the afternoon before the meeting began because of the winds. The winds also bring a lot of sand and discomfort to your eyes. The meeting hotel had windows that leaked sand. I woke up the next morning with my head feeling like it was full of sand. However, it turned out to be a very excellent meeting. We had good scientific papers and good representation. Dr. Nusynowitz had arranged for some social events that were very interesting and exciting. I became very impressed with him at that time. I became very impressed with most all of the people that I became acquainted with through the Society of Nuclear Medicine. Texas had its share of outstanding figures. At that time, Dr. John Burdine was outstanding in the field of nuclear medicine. Dr. Tom Haynie and Ralph Gordon had come into the state and were doing an outstanding job at the University in Galveston. There were just all sorts of wonderful men to be acquainted with and to work with.
DR. MIDDLETON: Interesting. Was it around that time when your new colleague, Dr. William Carpentier came to work at Scott & White? Do you remember when that occurred?
DR. PETTY: I sure do. I don't know how much my being president of the Society had to do with it, but I found that my practice at Scott & White had increased approximately 25 percent every year after I first came. It was the sixth and seventh years by then, and the workload was getting to be very heavy. I began to look for an associate. Dr. Carpentier was manna from heaven. I had looked, and the quality of people I wanted to practice with me were very scarce. My friend, Dr. Tom Haynie mentioned a young man who came in with the first group at NASA. He became fascinated with nuclear medicine and found out that the likelihood of him being allowed to go on a space shot was very small. He took a year and trained at the facilities in Houston. He trained in all the hospitals and with most all of the people. He looked like he was going to be outstanding. And my acquaintance with him began at the National Society of Nuclear Medicine that year. He and his wife came for an interview shortly thereafter. It was the beginning of the culmination of a very desirable situation. He was always very high quality material.
DR. MIDDLETON: Yes, as an aside, Bill Carpentier was my colleague for several years. I think Bill was here at Scott & White for 28 or 30 years. He recently retired. So we both have strong admiration for Dr. Carpentier. What do you think is special or unique about the Southwestern Chapter compared to other organizations in nuclear medicine?
DR. PETTY: I think it is very outstanding. The cooperation and collaboration among and between the physicians and the auxiliary professionals as well as the technologists has always been very favorable. The quality of the meetings and the quality of the people does continue to amaze and delight me. That's the word, delight me.
DR. MIDDLETON: That's right, and we all know it's a great field. Other than Chapter involvement, what are some of the highlights that you recall in the practice of nuclear medicine during your career that you thought were exciting in the 1970s and '80s?
DR. PETTY: Well, as I said earlier, I became interested when I was taking my radiology residency. I had a three-month assignment that I spent a half a day in the radioisotope lab and a half a day doing cobalt therapy. I became very interested in the use of radioactive materials in the treatment of disease, because we did a good bit of radioiodine therapy at that time. There were some very fascinating laboratory procedures that were being done. The early use of radioiodine was to do thyroid function studies. I was fortunate to live through an era when new developments were blossoming almost every month. It was a challenge, but always a delight to utilize these materials in the study of disease.
DR. MIDDLETON: Excellent. How about the future? What do you believe is the future direction for nuclear medicine?
DR. PETTY: To me, the future is unlimited. There has been such a wonderful imagination and facilitation of these unique tracers to study the biological effects as well as the physical and anatomical nature of the disease process that I don't see any limitation to it. I think we are a very few steps away from acutely studying the internal mechanism of the cellular structure of the body. When we get that, wow!
DR. MIDDLETON: Yeah, I agree with you. I remember when I was just a third-year medical school student trying to decide what field to enter, I remember coming to talk to you. You explained to me what an exciting field nuclear medicine was and how it really differed from radiology. Utilizing radioisotopes was an exciting field and that there was no way that the field was going to die. I know talking to some other people, many people thought that nuclear medicine was what they called a dying field, but that certainly has not been the case in my short career. I know that you were a professor here at Scott & White, which is affiliated with Texas A&M College of Medicine. Can you tell me a little bit about your unique role as a teacher in nuclear medicine?
DR. PETTY: Prior to my coming to Scott & White, I had worked in one of the largest hospitals in the South, the Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Most of the young people, who were doing technology in radioisotope use at that time, had not had any formal training, and they asked me if I would help them, because they knew I was trying to get educated. They asked if I would help them prepare to take the national examination for nuclear medicine technologists. I was delighted to do that and became involved with the teaching experience. When I came to Scott & White, there had been two classes of nuclear medicine technologists prior to my coming. Dr. Edward Best, who was primarily interested in angiography, had some very valuable experience in nuclear medicine. He had taught these two classes. He had a class for me to teach when I got here. So every year until 1986, we taught a class of nuclear medicine technology students. At one time, we were preparing more nuclear medicine technologists than any other institution in the state.
DR. MIDDLETON: I think that's a very important point. I know a lot of technologists practicing today were either affiliated with the technology school that you headed or were taught by former students of yours. Even in my own practice, I have nine or ten technologists. About half of them were trained by you.
Besides the many nuclear technology students, I know that you've been involved with medical education. There have been many radiology residents that you have trained over the years. Do you have any comments about that?
DR. PETTY: Well, that also has been a very delightful part of my experience in nuclear medicine. In actuality, I trained some people in nuclear medicine who were from the fields of internal medicine and pathology. As far as I can recall, every resident who trained in radiology here had at least a month. Some of them had as much as three months' training in nuclear medicine during my tenure here. It was always a real wonderful experience to have that. After we became affiliated with Texas A&M, the medical student education was a very delightful part of my practice life.
DR. MIDDLETON: Well, very nice. I have always been appreciative. As an aside, Dr. Petty is the person I give credit to getting me interested in nuclear medicine as a career. One of my most treasured memories in medical school is during my third year when I did a nuclear medicine elective with him and Dr. Carpentier. In conclusion for this interview, Charlie, is there anything you'd like to say to some of your friends from the Southwest Chapter during your period of time?
DR. PETTY: Certainly. I can go down the list of former presidents of the organization as well as those who did not rise to a formal presidency. I look at these names, and I think that these are a wonderful group of people that I have always been fortunate enough to call my friends. There are names that just pop out as highlights all up and down the list. That has been a very wonderful experience for me. I hope all of them are still enjoying a wonderful life. I tell people very truthfully, and it's hard for them to understand, I loved every day that I got up and came to work.
DR. MIDDLETON: Oh, well, very nice, Dr. Petty. I just wanted to say that on behalf of the Southwestern Chapter, we appreciate your work on behalf of the Chapter and everyone that you touched during your career and trained in some respect all the way from technologists to medical students and residents and senior staff colleagues in radiology and nuclear medicine.
DR. PETTY: Thank you.