George Meneely, M.D.

George was born in Hempstead, Long Island, NY in Sept 1911. He completed his undergraduate studies summa cum laude at Princeton University in 1933, and graduated from Cornell University School of Medicine in 1937. After Internal Medicine Residency at University of Rochester, he was a James Gleason Fellow in 1940-41 working with Paul Hahn learning radioactive isotope techniques. He was on the faculty of the Louisiana State University Medical School in New Orleans from 1941 to 1943, where develo0ped the first pulmonary function laboratory in the state of Louisiana. In 1943 he and Paul Hahn were recruited by Vanderbilt University to initiate radioisotope projects in Internal Medicine and Biochemistry respectively. In 1949, he and Kaltreider described a method of determining lung volume using helium dilution.

George was one of the physician pioneers who used radioactive tracers as experimental medical tools well before nuclear medicine was an established medical discipline. He studied cardiac, pulmonary diseases in animals and patients investigating physiology, pathology and therapeutic interactions. Meneely was successful in getting small grants to support his cardiology research interests but financial support was limited before the NIH came into its own in the 1950s. Support for radioisotope programs emerged first in the VA. By the late 1940s, the Veterans Administration had started 8 VA Hospital-based radioisotope laboratory programs located in Boston, Bronx, Cleveland, Hines (IL), Minneapolis, Dallas, Van Nuys, and Los Angeles. Hugh Morgan, then Chair of Medicine at Vanderbilt, served on the Central VA “Advisory Committee on Radioisotopes”, along with prominent leaders in the field (Shields Warren, Perrin H. Long, Stafford L. Warren, and Hymer Friedell). In 1948 with support from the VA, Meneely moved his base of operations to the Vanderbilt-affiliated Thayer Veterans Administration Hospital located about 3 miles from Vanderbilt. In 1953, Meneely established the Division of Nuclear Medicine and Biophysics at Vanderbilt, (the same title that Rochester adopted that year) and moved his program back to Vanderbilt. He conducted many early quantitative studies of cardio pulmonary function and mechanisms of disease and the efficacy of different therapeutic interventions. He designed and built an early gamma ray imaging device in 1955 followed in 1959 by a whole body counter, one of the first in a Medical School used to study nutrition, body composition and drug metabolism in normal volunteers and patients.

In 1962, Meneely was passed over for promotion to Full Professor, at which point he decided to leave Vanderbilt. Meneely was widely recognized locally and internationally as a brilliant scientist, but the appropriateness of an irradiated food project in the Department of Medicine was not appreciated locally as a medically relevant enterprise . He spent 1962-63 at Northwestern University, and consulted at AMA in Chicago. Meneely moved to Houston TX where he was on the faculty of the MD Anderson Hospital working with Lee Farr for whom he designed another whole body counter. His final move was to Shreveport, LA where he  helped design the new Medical School where he served as Chairman of Department of Physiology and Biophysics, and Professor of Medicine until his retirement in 1982.

He was a founding member of the American Foundation for Clinical Research, a Distinguished Fellow of the American College of Nuclear Medicine, and President of the American College of Cardiology. In 1982, he was made a Master of the American College of Physicians an honor he valued greatly. He and several other key nuclear medicine pioneers  were not grand fathered by the AMA certified American Board of Nuclear Medicine (ABNM) in 1972.  In  protest they formed the American College of Nuclear Medicine  (ACNM) which merged with the ACNP (American College of Nuclear Physicians  in 2013.



%d bloggers like this: