Each year, the College awards individuals whose work and dedication advances and strengthens the specialty. Spanning continents and subspecialties, this year’s recipients include individuals from across the community of imaging. Commendations will be awarded at the 2020 ACR Annual Meeting in May.
Priscilla F. Butler, MS, FACR
Priscilla “Penny” F. Butler, MS, FACR, a former ACR staff member, “fell into” her career in radiology — and never looked back. It all started in high school, she says, when she worked in a hospital taking care of patients. “I knew I didn’t want to be a physician, because I didn’t like blood,” she says. “I liked physics and I wanted to do something that would be beneficial to people, and medical physics turned out to be it.”
Butler started with an undergraduate degree in radiological health, which “is a field where you become an expert in radiation safety,” she says. She got her master’s degree in medical physics from the University of Florida in 1976 .
Prior to joining the College staff in 1998, Butler spent 13 years as a medical physicist and faculty member in the department of radiology at the George Washington University Hospital. She also served for 10 years as a U.S. Public Health Service commissioned officer in the FDA’s Centers for Devices and Radiological Health where she participated in the start-up and conduct of their Breast Exposure: Nationwide Trends program in the late-70s — co-authoring several pioneering articles on radiation dose and image quality in mammography.
Then, in 1998, she was looking to make a career change. “I was talking to some ACR staff about whether they had heard of any openings for a medical physicist in the area. Pamela A. Wilcox, RN, MBA, former ACR executive vice president of quality and safety, called me and said, ‘Well, we just happen to have this opening here and it’s not specifically for medical physicists, but would you be interested in doing something entirely different?’ And so the rest is history.”
Butler’s career has been devoted to reducing unnecessary radiation dose to patients including in breast imaging. During her ACR tenure, she served in several roles. As senior director and medical physicist in the department of quality and safety, she was responsible for a growing number of dose-related projects (e.g., Image Gently®, Image Wisely®, diagnostic reference level development,
ACR Mammography Accreditation Program, etc.), physics-related activities (e.g., the 1999 ACR Mammography Quality Control Manual, the 2016 and 2018 ACR Digital Mammography Quality Control Manuals, and staffing the Commission on Medical Physics), and BI-RADS®. According to Butler, “Throughout my career, I felt like I was at the right place at the right time, working with giants in radiology and medical physics to tackle radiology issues critical to women and the United States.”
Assessing the professional accomplishments of which Butler is most proud, her involvement in helping reduce radiation dose in the U.S. from medical examinations ranks the highest. “There was a report that came out from the National Council for Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) in 2009, which said that most of the radiation that the average American receives is from medical imaging and it was a bombshell report,” she says. “Several initiatives and programs were formed as a result, including Image Gently and Image Wisely. In November of 2019, the NCRP came up with a 10-year follow-up report showing that there has been a substantial reduction in radiation dose to the U.S. population, and I think a lot of this is related to Image Gently, Image Wisely, and the work that our registries have been doing have contributed to this drop. Knowing that I had a hand in it is really rewarding.”
I took a lot of pride in helping to ensure that all of the councilors had an opportunity for their thoughts to be expressed, and to have an impact on College policy-making.
Albert L. Blumberg, MD, FACR
When Albert L. Blumberg, MD, FACR, started medical school, he considered a few different paths before settling on oncology, a field that aligned with his interests in genetics — as well as his personal strengths. “I found that I could provide support and encouragement to patients without getting depressed to the point where one can’t have a conversation with somebody about the fact that — in the early 1970s anyway — many of these people had death sentences because we had such poor ways of dealing with disease,” he says. Once he decided on oncology, he says, he was left with four choices: surgical, gynecologic, medical, or radiation. “I already knew from my surgical rotation I had no desire to do anything surgical, so it was between medical oncology and radiation oncology. I did electives in both and realized that radiation oncology was a natural fit because I like working with patients with cancer,” he says. Blumberg, who received his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in 1974, applied for radiation oncology residencies and was accepted into the University of California San Francisco in 1975. Following residency, Blumberg served for three years as an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia before entering private practice in Baltimore, where he remained until retirement in 2017.
Blumberg was certified by the ABR in 1978 and received his ACR Fellowship in 1993. His career-long passion for organized medicine activities started when he served as the national chair of the AMA Student Business Section in 1973. Blumberg was a leader in the Council of Affiliated Regional Radiation Oncology Societies, serving as the organization president from 1990 through 1991. He then served on the ACR CSC from 2000 through 2007, including terms as vice speaker from 2003 through 2005 and speaker from 2005 through 2007. He remains the only radiation oncologist to have occupied these offices. Blumberg also served on the BOC from 2003 through 2014 and is only the third radiation oncologist ever to serve as ACR president. As chair of the Commission on Radiation Oncology from 2008 through 2013, Blumberg was instrumental in consolidating College-wide radiation oncology activities under one commission. Even in retirement, he continues to serve the College as chair of the Bylaws Committee.
Of all the things Blumberg did as a volunteer for the ACR, Blumberg says his favorite four years were those he spent as vice speaker and speaker of the ACR Council. Blumberg likens the experience to that of an orchestra conductor — making sure meetings flowed smoothly, and that everyone had a voice and the opportunity to have it heard. “I took a lot of pride in helping to ensure that all of the councilors had an opportunity for their thoughts to be expressed,” he says, “and to have an impact on College policy-making.”
Upon reflection, Blumberg says he is most proud of “the way I was able to ease the pain, the concern, and the fears that so many patients and their families had after receiving a diagnosis of cancer, and the ability to explain to them that not all cancer diagnoses were automatic death sentences — that we have arrows in our quiver that we could use to make it better for them, even if their disease took a turn for the worse. I got a lot of very positive feedback over my career from patients and family members that I was successful at that.”
David C. Kushner, MD, FACR
David C. Kushner, MD, FACR, says his life’s mission has been focused on improving healthcare for children, wherever that may take him. His quest for knowledge set him on a trajectory to gain the
skills needed to serve his patients and further his subspecialty for generations to come.
Born in Fargo, N.D., Kushner’s journey took him to an undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, followed by medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. Kushner completed a pediatric internship and residency at Harvard’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston, followed by a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. From there, Kushner went on to a diagnostic radiology residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. He then returned to Children’s Hospital Medical Center as chief resident and stayed for a fellowship in pediatric radiology. After leaving training, he remained at Harvard, where he eventually became professor of radiology and section head of the pediatric residency. Next he moved to Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and served as a professor of radiology at the George Washington University.
Kushner longed to live on the water and that prompted his next move south to serve as medical director of the department of radiology at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Va., a position he held for 12 years. Kushner is now professor of radiology and pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical Center in Norfolk.
Throughout his career, Kushner has been an avid participant and contributor to his professional societies. He held the position of president of the Massachusetts Radiological Society in 1987. In the Society of Pediatric Radiology, he rose to president in 2003. His ACR service included roles as vice speaker and speaker of the ACR Council as well as BOC member, culminating in the role of president of the ACR in 2015.
He was a dedicated educator as well, with more than 100 of his research articles published in refereed and non-refereed journals. In addition, he has written numerous book chapters and abstracts and received numerous “Best Teacher” awards at multiple sites.
Kushner calls it a unique privilege to care for sick children and their families. According to Kushner, “When I have been able to work with my team to improve the lives of children, the reward is immeasurable.”
Luis Martí-Bonmatí, MD, PhD
Luis Martí-Bonmatí, MD, is widely recognized for being a visionary leader in the field of quantitative imaging biomarkers. After graduating in medicine from the University of Valencia in Spain in 1983 and completing his postgraduate training in radiology in 1987, Martí-Bonmatí obtained his doctoral degree in 1991 for his work on MRI in liver tumors. In 1987, he became part of the radiology team at Dr. Peset University Hospital of Valencia — the first university hospital radiology department with an MR system in Spain. In 1995, he became section chief of MRI at that hospital.
In 2009, Martí-Bonmatí became chair of the radiology department and director of the medical imaging department at La Fe University and Polytechnic Hospital in Valencia, which serves as the referral center for advanced treatments and complex diseases within the Valencia community. That same year, he was appointed radiology coordinator of the Catholic University in Valencia, and in 2011 he became professor of radiology and supervisor at the University of Valencia. Since 2012, Martí-Bonmatí has been the founder and director of the Biomedical Imaging Research Group (GIBI230) within La Fe Health Research Institute, a center belonging to the Spanish Research Network at the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology. The group focuses on radiomics, imaging biomarkers, and structured reporting, with a particular interest in preclinical animal imaging and calibration experiments.
Martí-Bonmatí’s research collaborations have included the Spanish Biomedical Data Science Lab, the Institute of Applications of Information Technology and Advanced Communications, the Institute of Instrumentation for Molecular Imaging, the European Institute for Biomedical Imaging Research, the European Imaging Biomarkers Alliance, and Euro-BioImaging. He has been an editor of nine books and author or coauthor of 57 book chapters.
When asked what he counts among his greatest professional achievements, Martí-Bonmatí says it is his mentorship of the next generation of radiologists. “Through my appointments at La Fe University and Polytechnic Hospital, the Catholic University in Valencia, and the University of Valencia, I have mentored and supervised 49 doctoral thesis projects,” says Martí-Bonmatí. “It is wonderful to have had a role in contributing to the future of medical science.”
David L. Ball, MD, AO, FRANZCR
David L. Ball, MD, AO, FRANZCR, is widely recognized by his peers in radiation oncology for making a global impact in lung cancer care. Ball, who currently serves as professor of radiation oncology at the University of Melbourne and chair of the lung service at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Peter Mac), received his medical degree from the University of Adelaide in 1971. Ball subsequently underwent specialty training in radiation oncology at Peter Mac and obtained his board certification in 1976. In 1979, Ball did a 12-month fellowship in clinical oncology at the Royal Marsden Hospital in the U.K.
In 1981, he was appointed head of the lung unit at Peter Mac and has held that position ever since. Under his leadership, Peter Mac’s lung service developed from a purely clinical service into the most active, internationally-recognized, and productive lung cancer research group in Australia. In addition to his work at Peter Mac, Ball has been a member of Cancer Australia’s lung cancer advisory group since 2010; he served as chair of the group from 2014 through 2017. The group has given advice on a number of projects, including how to better engage general practitioners in the diagnosis and management of lung cancer and how to improve outcomes for aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders affected by, or at risk of, lung cancer. Ball also received the Order of Australia award for his work in radiation oncology and medical education.
Scientifically, Ball has 225 peer-reviewed publications to his name — covering a wide range of subjects, including staging, prognostic factors, palliation, and psychosocial aspects of lung cancer. He has given more than 250 presentations and lectures, and has served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology from 2007 through 2019. However, he counts among
his greatest achievements the countless lives his work in lung cancer has saved. “Lung cancer is one of the most deadly cancers,” says Ball. “It affects patients with already impaired health, primarily related to smoking, making the population particularly vulnerable. It was a thrill to lead the CHISEL randomized trial, which for the first time showed a survival advantage for patients with stage I
non-small cell lung cancer treated with stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy. This was achieved non-invasively, painlessly, and with only four or five hospital visits. To cure patients without suffering is a model for future cancer treatment to which we should aspire.”