Imaging is Us

As part of our 175th anniversary celebration, we are focusing on a different aspect of our history. This month it’s imaging - and our record goes back more than a century. In 1905 Walter C. Hill, MD, was appointed the first radiologist at Lakeside Hospital, about when the institution first purchased x-ray equipment. Hill established the earliest radiology classes for medical students shortly thereafter, building upon them his entire career. Since then we have had a distinguished history of medical imaging.

Imaging was an important part of the foundational group practice at Cleveland Clinic, which was established in 1921 with a staff of six surgeons, four internists, a biophysicist - and a radiologist. In 1946, a department of radiology was created at Western Reserve University (WRU). Lieutenant Colonel Hymer L. Friedell of the US Army’s Manhattan District Corps of Engineers was recruited as head of the department and chief of radiology at University Hospitals. He served for four years on the Manhattan Project and, in part based on his background, the Atomic Energy Commission agreed to support the study of the biological effects of internally distributed radioelements at WRU in 1947. This entailed funding a division of radiation biology, one of our earliest interdisciplinary programs, which would also include scientists in biology, chemistry, physics, pathology, and pharmacology. 

The Department of Radiology expanded on its distinguished start and began a training program. Its most connected graduate was Theodore Castele (MED ’57). In 1975 he became “Dr. Ted,” the very first “TV doctor” in the country. As medical editor for WEWS Channel 5, he presented health reports to viewers throughout northeast Ohio, racking up almost, in his words, a "billion video house calls." In the 1980s he led a campaign to generate funding for new computerized tomography (CT) devices, which were extremely expensive and often required government permission to obtain. The group, eventually known as Medical Consultants Imaging, worked for many years to help provide CT and (and later MRI) scanners to hospitals in the city, Ohio, and adjacent states. A loyal alumnus and generous donor, Dr. Ted had a major positive impact on the School of Medicine, leading a large capital campaign and recruiting others to join him in his philanthropy.

Crackerjack radiology must be underpinned by crackerjack research. To organize our basic science researchers in imaging, the Case Center for Imaging Research, the CCIR, was founded in 2004 with Jeff Duerk as founding director. Now led by Jim Basilion this coterie of individuals with expertise in MRI, ultrasound, and nuclear medicine soon became known as one of the best in the world. In 2013 members of the group, including Mark Griswold, Vikas Gulani, and Nicole Seiberlich, unveiled their remarkable invention of magnetic resonance fingerprinting. From the information contained in conventional scans, this powerful analytic technique can differentiate tissue types with such refinement that aggressive prostate cancer can be distinguished from indolent, for example. This has enormous clinical potential. Another compelling achievement of the group is the three-dimensional representation of human anatomy in augmented reality based on radiologic imaging. Others in the CCIR also have amazing new technologies in development for identifying cancers and delivering therapeutics.

All of this intellectual activity has resulted in a longstanding sponsored research agreement between CWRU, UH, and Siemens Imaging to further hone magnetic resonance fingerprinting. Moreover, there is a substantial community in the for-profit sector of spinout, small, and medium sized companies in the imaging space. One of them, Quality Electrodynamics, or QED, headed by Hiro Fujita, a PhD graduate of CWRU, has grown rapidly, particularly in the area of MRI components. QED has been highly recognized for its excellence and rapid growth, and Dr. Fujita was invited to sit with first lady Michelle Obama at the 2012 State of the Union address. And while we are saddened by the news that Philips Healthcare plans to end all manufacturing operations at its plant in Highland Heights during the second half of 2018, there is good news in its decision to open a new medical imaging R&D facility in Northeast Ohio. We hope to achieve real imaging advances in partnership with Philips experts at the future site.

In clinical, intellectual, and business areas, imaging has been a major driver of the medical school and the community – and it will continue into the future with magnetic resonance fingerprinting and our dramatic, pioneering work with Microsoft and its HoloLens mixed-reality technology. We are proud of our past here – but even more excited about our future. Congrats to all.