Celebrates SOM Tradition of Excellence in Neuroradiology
Investiture ceremonies have a way of building connections between the School’s past and present and serving as a bond between faculty, alumni, donors, and mentors across multiple generations. Such was the case on September 21, when Elias R. Melhem, MD, was installed as the Dean John M. Dennis Chair in Radiology before a large audience of family, friends and colleagues of both the benefactor and the recipient.
“The honor associated with endowed professorships is recognized as one of the highest tributes that an institution can bestow upon its most distinguished faculty,” said E. Albert Reece, Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland, the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, and Dean of the School of Medicine. “In the world of academia, endowed chairs and professorships are a coveted and universally recognized accolade, an honor bestowed upon the best and brightest of our faculty in academic medicine, such as Dr. Melhem. These very talented faculty members inspire students, advance the frontiers of knowledge, and make discoveries that change people’s lives.”
The ceremony marked a continuation of excellence and innovation in the field of diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine that goes back to Dr. Melhem’s childhood, when he would watch his father, a pediatric radiologist, making diagnoses from very simple x-rays. “That’s what got me hooked,” he said. “I could see the tremendous potential in the field of radiology.
He would later join a group of trainees in Baltimore, many of whom are now Deans and Department Chairs at other major medical schools. “It was an exceptional group,” said R. Nick Bryan, MD, PhD, Professor and Chairman Emeritus, Department of Radiology, University of Pennsylvania, who was a mentor to Dr. Melhem and others in the group. “Elias Melhem was one of those students who you could tell had a natural interest in science.”
At the same time, a radiologist named John M. Dennis, MD, from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, was emerging as a leader at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, first as the inaugural Chairman of the Department of Radiology (now the Department of Diagnostic Radiology & Nuclear Medicine) – a position he would hold for 22 years – and then as the 28th Dean of the School of Medicine.
“Dean Dennis put the School of Medicine on the map as a leader in radiology, as a major research institution, and, perhaps most significantly, for achieving his dream of building a VA hospital here,” said Milford “Mickey” Foxwell, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Admissions. “While he never met Dr. Melhem, he would have been proud to have such a distinguished physician scientist carry his name and endowed professorship.”
They all would have been amazed to see how the field of radiology has evolved. When the SOM recruited Dr. Melhem from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, it began to form a group of physicians, scientists and neurosurgeons who have made the School a leader in metabolic imaging and focused ultrasound with amazing results for patients suffering from Essential Tremor (See related story). “Penn’s loss was clearly Maryland’s gain,” said M. Sean Grady, MD, the Charles Harrison Frazier Professor and Chairman, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Melhem credited Dean Reece and his vision for the SOM as the key for him to return to Baltimore. “His contagious enthusiasm for research and innovation in biomedicine and his limitless energy in realizing his progressive vision for the UMSOM convinced me without a shadow of a doubt that this was the place to be. Furthermore, the department of Radiology was endowed with the highest quality faculty, residents, technologists, and nurses. The culture was that of caring and warmth. The departmental clinical services and educational curricula are second to none, and the research potential is great,” Dr. Melhem said.
His department is quickly realizing that potential. “As the result of our combined efforts and the fertile environment here, both clinical and research faculty have been awarded as PIs in the last six months an unprecedented number of federal and societal grants (5 NIH R grants, 1 NSF grant, 1 K08 and 3 RSNA grants),” revealed Dr. Melhem.
He wishes he could have met Dr. Dennis, to thank him. “Unfortunately, I did not know Dean Dennis personally. Through my frequent communications with his lovely wife, Mary Hellen, and her loyal family and close friends, though, I have learned a lot about him and his prodigious accomplishments for the Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine and the UMSOM, as well as his impactful achievements in the Radiological Societies at the national level,” said Dr. Melhem. “Our recent successes in the department are a testament to the great foundation that Dean Dennis and the succeeding chairs have laid for us. I have no doubt that Dean Dennis would have been proud of these accomplishments. I want to thank the Dennis family once again for their generosity and confidence in me. I am honored to accept the Dean John M. Dennis Endowed Chair on behalf of the entire Department, and I thank you, Dean Reece, for giving me the opportunity to lead this stellar Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine.”
Collegues, Family and friends
Dr. Vincent P. Matthews, Dr. Elias R. Melhem, Dr. M. Sean Grady, and Dr. R. Nick Bryan
Dr. Melhem and Family
Attending Guests, family, family and collegues