Path B: Nuclear Medicine Clinical Studies 1964-79

Most of the Vanderbilt nuclear medicine research projects  were funded by AEC with additional support from NIH, NSF, and Industry-sponsored grants/contracts. The studies were largely generated in our group and many were in response to issues/opportunities raised by patients seen by colleagues in other Departments. Problems also arose in the course of patients referred to us for diagnosis and or therapy. Many of the clinicians that worked in, and with nuclear medicine were coauthors of projects  carried out during their tenure. The following is a brief summary of highlights on the work that was done by them and others. Doctors Staab, and Patton are no longer alive and the work they did can be seen by viewing  their publications. Other former colleagues have been invited to add  comments on their work and related memories, and  these will  be then be added.

Ed Staab: Ed was a Board Certified Radiologist who joined the Vanderbilt faculty in Radiology as an Assistant Professor in 1969. He came after finishing 2 years in the Army at Walter Reed in the Radiobiology Research program. He gained nuclear medicine experience  working with Merle Loken in Minnesota during his Radiology training. At Vanderbilt, Ed spent part of his time overseeing the Nuclear Medicine program at the VA alternating in this role with Dennis Patton at Vanderbilt. Ed and Joe Allen (Head of Neuroradiology) took the lead in studies of radionuclide cysternography to identify those patients in whom low-pressure hydrocephalus was the likely cause of the patient’s dementia. Gene Johnston worked with him in the evaluation of radiation dose received by these patients . Ed took the lead in pancreas imaging studies performed with Se-75 selenomethionine. Images were of low quality and different approaches were tried to increase image contrast. Electronic subtraction used different enhancement techniques with color displays and resulted in a small but discernible improvement. In 1973, Ed left for Chapel Hill, NC, where he became Chief of the Imaging Division. In 1986, he went on to Florida, serving as Chair of the Department of Radiology until 1998 when he went on to the NCI as a consultant in their Imaging Program. After retirement, he returned to Winston Salem, where he remained until he died in 2008.

Dennis Patton: Dennis was Board Certified in Radiology, with a background in Medical Physics gained as an undergraduate at U.C. Berkeley where he worked under a pioneer in the filed, J. G. Hamilton. Dennis came to Vanderbilt from University of California, Irvine after completing his Radiology training in 1970. He did imaginative and creative work and published widely, He lectured and published many articles dealing with sensitivity/specificity and Receiver Operating (ROC) concepts applied to systems evaluation and diagnostic decision making.  He took the lead in a number of brain and liver imaging projects. He also developed effective ways of visualizing cardiac chamber blood flow sequences using time-coded color images. This was particularly useful in determining where to place regions of interest (ROIs) over the heart to identify chamber flow by selecting regions with pure unmixed time coded activity. Bill Ashburn approached this in a different, also effective way. Other invasive approaches used different radiolabels on macroaggregated albumin (MAA) injected selectively in the right and left coronary arteries to separate the territories infused therefrom. Dennis took the lead in many projects and wrote a number of papers on liver and brain imaging. Dennis was recruited to the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1975, where he had  an active clinical and research career . Dennis retired from University of Arizona, and returned to San Francisco in 2003. He worked in a San Francisco PET imaging Center, until he died in 2007 (See: In Memorium: JNM 48: (4) 22N, 2007)

Juan Touya: Juan and his brother Eduardo were the two nuclear medicine physician/scientists who started Nuclear Medicine Department in Uruguay (Montevideo). Juan came to the USA to work with Les Bennett at UCLA. He joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1976 and was particularly interested in quantitative analysis of renal differential renal function using kinetic modeling tools. He tested different methods of measuring GFR in adults and children. He also studied the effects of posture on liver and lung imaging and respiratory functional imaging. He had previous experience with the use of In-113m transferrin, as an alternative to marrow imaging with Fe-59/52. Juan was an internist and an excellent clinician who explained study results clearly and in great detail to referring physicians.

David Rollo: David came from Johns Hopkins with an MD and PhD in physics. He joined the Vanderbilt program just before Randy left for a Sabbatical year at University College, London. David took over as Director of the Division of Nuclear Medicine, with Randy as Co-Division Director, and Research Director. Randy was a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), BEIR III Comm. and came to Washington on NAS business, and to Nashville on each occasion that year. David extended the tomography and XRF work with new studies using magnetic resonance, an area of particular interest to Everette James, Chair of Radiology, who had recruited Rollo. David collaborated with the Jerry Jones, and the Cardiologists using digital video analysis systems to study cardiac ischemia, and ventricular wall motion. His interests involved new directions in clinical instrumentation and prospects for future directions in medical imaging. These led to change his career direction, as he took  leave from Vanderbilt to join the Health Care for profit industry in 1982.


The 1980s is the time when many University-based programs transitioned from  experimental testing and development to a focus on clinical diagnosis and therapy, fully integrated with Radiology  practice. High quality imaging systems,  and increasingly powerful radiopharmaceutical drugs, supported  a renewed focus on therapy based on emerging knowledge of tumor markers and new molecular targeting opportunities. These new opportunities promise to  lead to new and better integrations with general  medical practices.  The following  are the people who led the Vanderbilt nuclear medicine program during ERA 3.

Leon Partain

Martin Sandler

Dominique Delbeke

Other nuclear medicine faculty made a significant clinical and research impact. These include Bill Martin, Gary Smith, Ron Walker, Risa Habibian, Chiraya Shah, Todd Peterson, Mike Stabin, Randy Brill, and Charles Manning.

Their work is further elaborated in ERA 3.

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