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W. TURNER HARRIS
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DR. JONES: Dr. Harris, how did you first become involved with Chapter leadership?
DR. HARRIS: I guess it must have been in the early '70s or late '60s, and I had never been to a meeting. I was put up in absentia … for the Board of Trustees. At that time, I didn't have a lot of choice, so I was elected.
DR. JONES: What are the highlights of your time with the Chapter, and what makes you most proud?
DR. HARRIS: Well, I thought about this before I came over here, and I think probably one of the real highlights was when we expanded into New Mexico…I think that was a real growth factor. I’m simply proud of the overall growth of the Chapter itself, because when we first started, it was only about 40 or 50 of us. I think the growth would be the best highlight.
DR. JONES: Now, were technologists originally part of the Chapter?
DR. HARRIS: Well, we didn't have a lot of [people], but I'm pretty sure there were. The Chapter has always been kind of a unique organization, you know, to have technologists, physicists, physicians, and everyone, and I think that's been a plus for the Society of Nuclear Medicine.
DR. JONES: What disappointments, failures, or disasters come to mind during your leadership years with the Chapter?
DR. HARRIS: Well, I tell you what: That's a hard question, because I can't really think of a lot of disappointments that we had as a Chapter itself…we really had a pretty vibrant organization. Maybe some of the places we had our meetings were some of the big disappointments, but we also had great meetings like in Galveston and New Orleans.
DR. JONES: Who's the most memorable person you've come in contact with within the Chapter leadership?
DR. HARRIS: These are hard questions, because I hate to pick out just one of my friends. Some of my best friends, of course, were Charlie Petty and Raleigh Johnson.
DR. JONES: Now, were they both from Arkansas?
DR. HARRIS: No, No. Charlie is at Scott & White, and Raleigh is at the University of Texas at Galveston…I think most of the people on the board at that time were really pleasant people. It's kind of hard to say who had most of the impact. I think overall it was a kind of a matter of opinion.
DR. JONES: Now, you started out on the Board of Trustees, but then did you hold any other position before you became President?
DR. HARRIS: Yes, I was the President-Elect, or Vice President—I’ve forgotten what the title was, but I was second in command for a while.
DR. JONES: What do you think is special or unique about the Southwestern Chapter?
DR. HARRIS: Well, from being involved, you know, at the national level, I think it’s the people of the Southwestern Chapter. There is just a kind of basic goodness, kindness that’s inherent to the South and Southwest, so I think they are the difference.
DR. JONES: Yes, the people—good people. Okay. Irrespective of Chapter involvement, what are some highlights of your own practice of nuclear medicine?
DR. HARRIS: After 40 years of seeing what's happened in Nuclear Medicine, it's hard to pick out any particular topic. But for me personally, really, the highlight of my entire Nuclear Medicine career at St. Vincent's was in 1996 [when] we put a free-standing PET center into St. Vincent's…one of the first in a community hospital. We worked out an agreement with Vanderbilt University where they would ship us [the radiotracer on] a daily basis, and the difficult part was just the logistics of flying the radionuclide from Vanderbilt to Little Rock…I guess that would be the highlight of my 40 years.
DR. JONES: Sure. It has really taken off since then, too.
DR. HARRIS: Yeah, and we just installed or were in the process of installing our new PET/CT combination scanner, so it has really proven to be the way metabolic disease is going to be studied, and you know, I believed 20 years ago, it was going to happen…It took 20 years to come into fruition, but it's real, and it's here.
DR. JONES: Okay, yeah…because there's PET scanners popping up all over the state. I'm always surprised when we get an outside PET scanner from a little small town.
DR. HARRIS: Yeah. Everybody wants one. That's right. Eight years ago they said, “He's crazy. He's crazy. He's going to put that scanner [in]…”
DR. JONES: Now you're a visionary.
DR. HARRIS: That's right. That's why I say the Board of Trustees at St. Vincent's and the Sisters at St. Vincent's really supported what I was trying to do.
DR. JONES: That's wonderful to have that kind of support.
DR. HARRIS: So, it really worked. And also, the physicians, because I had to convince them that this is the way to study to cancer…We did it, and now it's big time, you know.
DR. JONES: …education process with the physicians. Okay. What do you believe is the future direction of Nuclear Medicine?
DR. HARRIS: I think Nuclear Medicine is fantastic, and it just gets better and better and better…I think we've just scratched the surface. I think at the present time, PET, especially PET combined with CT…no telling what we're going to be doing…We basically are studying cancer at the present time, but the brain is going to be what we're really going to be studying in the future…I think with PET, probably anatomical imaging of CT and MRI, we are going to find disease processes that we suspected but nobody had ever proved exists on a metabolic basis. So, it's really profound, and I tell people I wish I was about 20 years younger to proceed [as] this is really going to be exciting.
DR. JONES: Yeah, it is, and with all the new isotopes that are coming out…
DR. HARRIS: It's just getting ready to explode. It really is, and that's the only regret I have…is just I'm too old to prove it.
DR. JONES: But you got to see it when it was growing and in its infancy, and that's really awarding, too.
DR. HARRIS: Oh yeah. It's been a great 40 years. I've loved it.
DR. JONES: Yeah. So now you did Radiology and Nuclear Medicine - is that right?
DR. HARRIS: Well, I started out in 1965, and you had to do Radiology to make a living as Nuclear Medicine hardly existed. So, I did a lot of Diagnostic Radiology. But over a period of time, I eventually just did Nuclear Medicine. So, I guess for the last 20 years in my practice, it was all complete Nuclear Medicine. The department grew to the point where I even had an associate that all these people know, Dr. Jerry Prather. And so, we really had a good relationship -- had a good program, big program.
DR. HARRIS: Do you know Henry Wagner?
DR. JONES: Just from the books.
DR. HARRIS: He is the guru of Nuclear Medicine. He really is. Henry and I have been friends for 40 years. It's interesting. His daughter lives in Little Rock. You know, it's kind of strange, because I never expected Henry to be coming to Little Rock to visit his grandkids…I had gone about five or six years ago to a state radiology meeting, and he talked on PET. It was really a great lecture.
DR. JONES: I'd love to hear him speak.
DR. HARRIS: It was a really good talk, and so, after we got our cyclotron in operation right before we opened up the cyclotron at St. Vincent's, I had to come back out of retirement to run the cyclotron. I came back and worked for about a year again for the cyclotron unit…Henry came to visit his daughter and came over to St. Vincent's to see our cyclotron. He was real impressed, I guess. That may be one of the first times the cyclotron/PET operations were in a community hospital. I know it was one of the first PET centers in a community hospital. At that time, there were only 70 PET centers in the nation, and they were all in university settings…so that was really exciting to Henry. [In] 1962, Merrill Bender was at Roswell Park. Merrill Bender was a radiation therapist originally. See, from 1939 up until after World War II, up to the late '50s and early '60s, nothing happened. They had hypothermal. That was all, and when I was a resident, we could do a thyroid uptake for hyperthyroidism. That's about it, and so then the first heart started coming out using mercury-203.
DR. JONES: What'd they use mercury for? Goodness.
DR. HARRIS: Well, its radiance.
DR. JONES: Really?
DR. HARRIS: Well,…there was a neurosurgeon back in the '30s that took diodone fluoroscene, and that is an iodine that crossed the membrane barrier. And what this guy did, he injected patients with diodone fluoroscene…and then at the time of surgery the next day, he could identify a tumor.
DR. JONES: That's clever.
DR. HARRIS: So a piece of history there. I love history. Anyway, what they did next…they took the iodine radical…and took I-131 and tagged the fluoroscene…they got uptake in tumor which with a handheld probe, they said, “Well, here it is.” So, then they took and invested their money and developed the rectilinear scanner. It would take four hours to get a lumbar scan, can you believe [this]? But then someone realized that if you just took I-131 and not mess with the fluoroscene that it would cross the membrane barrier, and you'd get an image. So, that was one of the first articles published in '62 of brain tumors using I-131. And then we used mercury-203, and then we would give the patient a big shot of mercury-hydrin to block their kidneys [from radiation]. We thought we were doing great stuff. Anyway, it was the first start of the period, and that really fascinated me that this was in medical school. It was all memorization, but I loved physiology. That's where he made us work. I was a Physics major in college, and the reason I did Radiology is because the physics fascinated me…I really believe…that if Nuclear Medicine hadn't come along, I would have probably quit. In the 1960s, Winston Perryman was a genius.
DR. JONES: I can see he's doing very well.
DR. HARRIS: Well, you know, Radiology had not progressed to that extent that it is now. I mean, it wasn't like it is now with CT, MRI, ultrasound, and all this sort of stuff. And I think I probably would have gone back to what I started doing. [Nuclear Medicine] just came along at the right time, and that's great.
DR. JONES: Sparked your interest.
DR. HARRIS: And to really think, I almost went to graduate school instead of medical school, and my professor wanted me [in a] space program at that time was really. And, boy, they talked it and talked it to go to graduate school, not to medical school, and I really wanted to...but I'm glad I didn't go into the space program…I was intending to be an Internal Medicine doctor…so I just kind of accidentally [went into] Radiology [which] is close to Physics. I wasn't interested in Nuclear Medicine. It was Internal Medicine, and it just kind of went full circle [as] they were combined…Internal Medicine, Physics, and Radiology.
DR. JONES: All in one.
DR. HARRIS: Well, this is Nuclear Medicine by definition. But one other thing I did, it's just the way the whole thing evolved, and I just happened to be there when it happened. And so, it really just worked out fantastic, and I've really loved it. It's been a great 40 years. I loved it. Like I say, the only regret…I wish I was 20 years younger where I could still be involved.