The Department of Radiology & Radiological Sciences

CHRISTOPHER C. McCLURE, SR., M.D. (Founder and Chairman 1935 - 1954)

Dr. Christopher Columbus McClure, Sr., was the pioneer radiologist of the South and first Chairman of the Radiology Department at Vanderbilt University Medical School. Dr. McClure was born in Pennsylvania on November 12, 1892, but he was actually reared in Mobile, Alabama. His parents were the late N. D. and Emily Olgilvee McClure. In 1911, Dr. McClure matriculated at Vanderbilt University. Except for one year spent at the University of Alabama, from 1913 to 1914, he was a pure “Vanderbilt product”.  We know little of McClure’s academic laurels as an undergraduate, but we do know his athletic talents were recognized as a pitcher in varsity baseball, and as a participant in varsity track and intramural football. In 1917, he married the former Miss Nelle Dunn and received his M.D. degree from Vanderbilt University in 1918.  

After conducting private practice in surgery with Dr. Lucius Burch for two years, Dr. McClure obtained his radiology training at Post Graduate Hospital, New York City and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts during 1919 and 1920. The 1920 Vanderbilt catalog lists Dr. McClure as “Assistant in X ray.” And during the period of 1925 to 1929 his title was “Instructor in Charge of Radiology,” an arrangement not unusual for the discipline in his day.
In 1930, Dr. McClure spent the year at the Cleveland Clinic receiving special training in radiology and returned to Vanderbilt the following year as assistant professor of clinical radiology and became the de facto head of the Radiology Department. From 1932 to 1936, he was a member of the executive faculty at Vanderbilt University Medical School. The 1936 Vanderbilt catalog lists three courses in radiology: a lecture series on physics, methods, and treatment in radiation therapy and radiologic problems. Another course was on roentgen diagnosis, which was given to one-sixth of the senior class over a period of six weeks.
Dr. McClure was an outstanding lecturer from his carefully selected and meticulously documented museum of radiographs and a favorite of medical students for nearly four decades. He also promoted interest in medicine among undergraduate students by his lectures and demonstrations using a portable fluoroscope and was instrumental in organizing Skull and Bones, the Undergraduate Premedical Society.
Dr. McClure must have been an extremely compassionate physician, especially with respect to the medical students. Dr. Rudolph H. Kampmeier recalls, “You know medical students -- they have everything they study or see! So Dr. McClure was an ‘easy touch’ for the students who thought they had tuberculosis, a peptic ulcer, or aortic aneurism. Thus, not infrequently, Chris called me to come to the viewing room to review films on the students. He was really overly solicitous, especially in pulmonary disease. I suppose he was sensitized inasmuch as he was a consultant to a tuberculosis hospital and found me, who had a 100-bed TB service for four years in Charity Hospital, too matter-of-fact at times.”
Dr. Amos Christie recalls that Dr. McClure was able to look at the radiograph and predict a patient’s course with comments such as “that poor old lady doesn’t have much longer to live because of that extensive tuberculosis or that large carcinoma in the lung.” Both agree that Dr. McClure was extremely popular with the clinicians and the medical students.
Dr. McClure maintained an office for the practice of radiology in downtown Nashville and held appointments in radiology at Baptist Hospital, General Hospital, Tennessee State Hospital for the Treatment of Pulmonary Diseases, and the Davidson County Hospital. He maintained a very active interest in new developments in radiology and, in fact, was one of the original members of the Atomic Energy Commission. His work in this regard was rewarded with a Presidential citation. He also served on the Teletherapy Evaluation Board of the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies. He also served as a consultant to the DuPont Corporation and as a radiologist for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
For some years, Dr. McClure was the chief of the Radiological Section of the Veteran’s Administration for the eastern United States. While he was a member of many professional organizations, those of which he was most proud included the Nashville Academy of Medicine, the Davidson County Medical Society, the Tennessee and American Medical Association, American College of Radiology, American Roentgen Ray Society, Radiological Society of North America, Alpha Omega Alpha, and American Medical Association. He also was a Thirty-second Degree Mason, Shriner, and Exchange Club member.  He served as an elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville.
In 1958, Dr. McClure retired from Vanderbilt University as Emeritus Professor some thirty-eight years after beginning the radiology department at Vanderbilt Medical School. He died on April 19, 1967 following a cerebral thrombosis and is survived by his only daughter, Miss Mary Eleanor McClure Taylor, who works as the receptionist in our Chancellor's office, and one son, Christopher C. McClure, Jr., M.D., who specialized as an osteopathic physician. His grandson, Christopher C. McClure, III, M.D. practices as a cardiologist in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Dr. Christopher Columbus McClure, Sr. is remembered as a charming gentleman who was a successful teacher, a perceptive and excellent radiologist, and a fine human being. The initiation of the discipline at Vanderbilt Medical School was placed upon an excellent foundation by his efforts.

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