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The Department of Radiology & Radiological Sciences

HISTORY OF DEPARTMENT OF RADIOLOGY and RADIOLOGICAL SCIENCES

As one contemplates the rapidly moving frontiers or ever-changing “leading edge” of the discipline of radiology and medical imaging and considers the implications for health care of X-ray computed tomography, real-time ultrasound with pulsed Doppler, digital radiography, and now, nuclear magnetic resonance, one must not forget the foundations upon which these imaging modalities depend. Especially, one must not forget the personalities involved in the establishment of the subdivisions of diagnostic radiology, nuclear medicine, and radiation oncology. Historical perspective permits the younger generation to appreciate better the contribution of those who have preceded them, to cherish the accomplishments of the pioneers and to maintain the traditions of excellence that characterize Vanderbilt Medical School. 

In the 1920's, Hans Geissberger joined the Radiology staff of Vanderbilt University Hospital as chief technician after immigrating to the U.S. from Remigen, Switzerland and establishing residency in Nashville, TN.  While at Vanderbilt , Hans completed extensive research work concerning the use of cones and filters on the first x-ray unit acquired by the university which was one of the few in the U.S. at the time.  He was active in the development of the criteria for operating x-ray equipment. Mr. Geissberger was committed to the education of the operators of x-ray equipment and served as an instructor in Vanderbilt’s training program for 37 years.  He was instrumental in the establishment of the American Society of Radiology Technologists (ASRT), officially joining in 1937, and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Mr. Geissberger presented numerous scientific papers at the state and national levels and published articles in the X-Ray Technician journal. He was very active in the Tennessee Society of Radiology Technologists (TSRT) and became it's first president in 1931. "Although he was fluent in German, French, and Italian," recalls Dr. Ben Mayes, "the English language always was somewhat of a mystery to him. Much of the English that he spoke was learned from medical students and consequently was spiced by much profanity, profanity of which he was often unaware! All of us were very fond of him and he was a great technician.”  Hans also served as president of the Swiss Society of Nashville in 1930 and 1931.

We have well-documented information concerning the arrangement and composition of the radiology department at Vanderbilt Hospital in 1929 because a plan for the department was published in a Rockefeller Foundation Report about Vanderbilt. This early radiology department consisted of a viewing room, an X-ray storage room, a radiation therapy room, a fluoroscopy room, a radiography room, a darkroom and an X-ray supply room, an office, and a waiting room on the first floor of the “clinical laboratory building” where the pediatric outpatient department is now situated.
 
In 1930, Dr. Barney Brooks, then professor and chairman of the department of surgery, recruited Dr. Harry T. Hillstrom from the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis after graduating with honors from their medical school in 1927 and completing his radiology fellowship. Dr. Hillstrom was appointed as Assistant Professor of Surgery and Head of Radiology by Dr. Brooks. While today this procedure would seem extraordinary, radiology at Vanderbilt and other institutions was then a division of the department of surgery. Therefore, Dr. Brooks’ actions were entirely appropriate.  Unfortunately, Dr. Hillstrom’s tragic death in an automobile accident cut short a potentially brilliant career at the early age of 30.  

Dr. Ben Mayes recalls, “In early 1937, the radiology department moved from the tiny ground floor court to a new department on the second floor (apparently in the area currently occupied by the check cashing and other patient account activities (S-2317).
 
In 1945, Dr. Granville (Speedy) Hudson joined the Vanderbilt radiology staff, with a particular interest in radiation therapy, and was especially active in administering cobalt treatment. Dr. Hudson also organized the diagnostic filing system and initiated the technologist training program.
 
The training of residents in radiology was organized and directed by Dr. Herbert C. Francis, chair for the department of radiology from 1954-1961. The first resident was Dr. John M. Dougall, now deceased. He was succeeded by Dr. Ben Mayes and then by Dr. Kirk Deibert, who was followed by Dr. Hudson.

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