August 16, 2022

The Rays!

John A. Long Jr., MD, FACR

My exposure to radiology began early in life. My father was a radiologist, trained in 1947 as Willy E. Baensch's first American resident at the Georgetown University Medical Center. My father included me and my siblings in all his adventures.

After the end of WW2, Willy arrived in the United States from Leipzig, Germany, so as not to remain in the Russian zone. He was required to take a basic science test to get a medical license in Washington, DC, but as a lab assistant to Wilhelm Roentgen and Marie Curie, he was already quite adept and educated. He later competed for the job of Chairman at Georgetown Medical School.

In Leipzig, Willy had overseen 30 radiologists at a division of internal medicine where he admitted, diagnosed and treated his own patients. Perhaps this system would serve patients better in America as well?

As a young boy, I was taught about the use of lead for X-ray room shielding, and also how to disassemble the shielding in order to melt it into fishing sinkers. For this lesson, I helped take apart an old X-ray room in the Seven Corners area of Fairfax, VA, and assisted in stripping lead from the doors. To this day, I still use the lead from that adventure on fishing trips, and I also still occasionally make sinkers.

My understanding of the effects of radiation was enhanced when my father removed the cobalt therapy 60seeds from the therapy machine and held the seeds in tongs to write on X-ray plates. I also knew the old wet tanks and their smells quite well.

While I enjoyed my diagnostic radiology residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, I also had been trained in films with my father’s home view box for years. He had the most wonderful collection of miliary lung diseases!

I went on to become an Alexander Margulis fellow at the University of California San Francisco as a GI radiologist, and then worked with John Doppman, MD, and Giovanni DiChiro, MD, at the NIH.

I took the Neuroradiology Certificate of Added Qualification after appealing to the ABR and passed, arguing that it should be open to all. Over the years, I did GI radiology, angiography, interventional radiology, neuroradiology as well as many extensive mammography, biopsies and general radiology.

I have realized that a radiologist is truly an internist who inherited the physical sciences (i.e., X-ray, MRI, ultrasound, nuclear medicine) to diagnose as opposed to the biologic sciences used by the traditional internist.

Despite not being from a large state, I enjoyed ACR® advocacy and represented a very small chapter, the DC Metropolitan Radiology Society, as Councilor. I was also happy to be involved in significant election changes that opened up the College to contested elections. Through my involvement in the 1996 ACR Strategic Plan by Ron Evens, MD, FACR, I requested that the residents become more engaged in College activities since they represented our future. This was seconded by John A. Knote, MD, FACR, of Indiana and passed. We see the results today.

I finished my career in the Washington, DC, area (also my lifelong home), and I have been blessed by the radiology profession and the many people I have met and mentored. DC is quite a town!

The greatest weakness of American radiology, in my opinion, is its multiple divisions. If we could somehow get all the great radiologic organizations to work as one unit, it would be much better for radiology and its patients in the U.S.

I thank all those who have trained, assisted and mentored me over the years, allowing me the opportunity to become a member of the greatest profession and calling in the world. We have a great future. All those involved with “the rays” will continue our legacy of great medical advances and provide better patient care and outcomes.