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Dr. Leon Partain

Partain shifting focus to imaging research

BY: DOUG CAMPBELL

2/18/2000 - Dr. C. Leon Partain is moving from the chairmanship of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences to become the director of the Center for Imaging Research.

Partain, who will continue as the Carol D. and Henry P. Pendergrass Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, has guided the department for eight years and overseen its substantial growth in diagnostic imaging services and technology as well as its rapid rise in national and international prominence in the radiological sciences.

"Dr. Leon Partain moves his focus of attention and action from departmental leadership to center leadership, having achieved important initiatives as chair for the past eight years," said Dr. John E. Chapman, dean of the School of Medicine. "Under his leadership the department has developed considerably, in number of faculty as well as financially and resource-wise. Research, service and education have, and continue to be, the priorities and contributions of the department under his guidance.

"Dr. Partain has achieved national prominence through a large number of contributions to the literature, to the profession, to patients, to students and to fellow colleagues. He leaves his mark as chair through the high quality of the programs he has led or caused to be. Dr. Partain now turns his considerable talents and energy to heading the new Center for Imaging Research.

"I, on behalf of all in the medical school, congratulate Dr. Partain on his achievements and wish him well in his center directorship," Chapman said.

Dr. Martin P. Sandler, professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences and director of Nuclear Medicine, has been appointed interim chair of the department.

In his new role as director of the Center for Imaging Research, Partain will help coordinate efforts among the many functional imaging modalities available at Vanderbilt, including fMRI, nuclear medicine, PET, ultrasound, spiral multislice CT and monochromatic x-ray systems. The center will take a multi-interdisciplinary approach, applying new imaging developments in clinical practice and biomedical research.

Partain joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1980 and, since taking over as chair eight years ago, has guided the Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences through an impressive growth spurt.

During that time, the clinical program has grown from 180,000 imaging studies per year to 260,000 per year. The number of MR scanners and CT scanners has increased and new equipment has been installed as technology has advanced. Single and dual plane digital angiography equipment has been installed and digital flouroscopy units have been added. Phase I of the Picture Archiving and Communication System has electronically tied together medical imaging from chest x-rays and CT scans in the department to the ER, nine intensive care units and some remote sites.

The departments outreach efforts have grown as well, from the Nashville Outpatient Diagnostic Center to Bedford County Medical Center and the newly opened Hillsboro Imaging Center, improving access and capacity for diagnostic imaging studies.

The residency program in the department continues to be one of the stronger and more popular programs in the country. Research efforts in the Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences has grown from an external funding base of federal support in the $350,000 range to more than $4 million. External commercial grants exceed $2 million.

Major funded projects currently under way include PET radiopharmaceutical development in neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders; functional MRI in developmental delay addiction and stroke; nuclear medicine technology development fusing x-ray CT and nuclear medicine SPECT; monochromatic x-ray system development, ultrasound studies in angiogenesis; the free electron laser; and research and development in MRI instrumentation.

Partain received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in nuclear engineering at Purdue University and his M.D. from Washington University, St. Louis. He's written five textbooks, including the first comprehensive text in MRI, 90 book chapters and 248 scientific abstracts and exhibits.

He's been the principal investigator in multiple research grants, including the investigation into CSF kinetics, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke.

Partain and his wife, Judy, were recently honored with a School of Medicine Scholarship in their name, funded by the late Grace McVeigh, a devoted friend and benefactor of VUMC for several decades.

Partain leaves the department well-positioned for the future, and looks forward to the new challenges that lie ahead in his role as director of the Center for Imaging Research.

"Change provides the opportunity to focus on basic values and to try with renewed energy to prioritize life's activities within a properly ordered sequence of faith, family and profession.

"In our profession, we know well that life is fragile and temporary and that eternal significance is not based primarily on what we do or who we are but on the source of hope and the basis for authority in our life," Partain said.

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