Remembering Pioneers in Radiology
As Black History Month approached this year, we found ourselves inspired to dive into the history of medical imaging and its subspecialties of radiology and sonography. It is well known that X-rays were produced and detected in 1895 by German physicist Wilhelm Rontgen, initiating the field of radiology. And that Karl Theo Dussik was the first physician to start experimenting with ultrasound in medical imaging as early as the late 1930s.
But what about the pioneers who forged the path from initial discovery to the advanced technologies that we use routinely today? Particularly those who battled personal discrimination in their own work as well as broader discrimination that limited access for many to these life-saving technologies?
What we found was a rich history full of notable black physicians, nurses, researchers and teachers. We profile a few of these pioneers here.
Marcus F Wheatland1,2
Born in Bridgetown, Barbados in the West Indies, Marcus Wheatland set up medical practice in Newport, Rhode Island after graduating with a medical degree from Howard University. X-ray machines were a new technology (invented in 1895 – the same year that Marcus Wheatland graduated), yet he introduced them in his practice, owning the first X-ray machine in Newport. He became a leading expert in the field of radiology and its use to diagnose patients, publishing and speaking at meetings about his work. Including lecturing on the use of X-rays at an annual meeting of the National Medical Association, an organization that he later oversaw as president.
Herbert Clay Scurlock1,3
Herbert Scurlock earned his medical degree in 1900, also from Howard University. Following graduation he took on a lecturer position at Howard University, instructing students at the College of Medicine in X-ray and electrotherapy. After a brief period of time at Howard University’s College of Liberal Arts, Herbert Scurlock returned as a full professor to the College of Medicine where he headed the department of physiological chemistry for over 40 years. In addition to teaching medical professionals in the use of radiology, Herbert Scurlock’s own research created significant advancements in the use of radiation therapy for cancer and the use of dental X-rays for diagnosis of dental problems.
William E Allen Jr4,5
William Allen received his medical degree from Howard University in 1930, possibly having been taught by Herbert Scurlock – then one of the professors of undergraduate roentgenology. During his residency in radiology at St Louis City Hospital #2, he was appointed as radiologist-in-chief at nearby St Mary’s Infirmary where he established a school of X-ray technology. During his long career William Allen broke many barriers and holds many firsts, including becoming the founder and first chairman of the Section of Radiology of the National Medical Association. A tireless advocate of better access to medical education for black students, he founded the School of Technology at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St Louis.
Rose M Pegues-Perkins4,5
Rose Pegues-Perkins was practicing as a registered nurse in St. Louis, Missouri when she enrolled in the radiologic technologist program created by William Allen, Jr at St Mary’s Infirmary. Under his training, Rose Pegues-Perkins became one of the first black X-ray technicians, lobbying to take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) exam. With persistence, she was eventually allowed to sit for the exam which she passed.
Who are today’s pioneers? We believe many are part of our POCUS community, sharing their knowledge and expertise to increase awareness and the use of point-of-care ultrasound in support of the highest quality care for patients.
Are you interested in sharing your POCUS knowledge and expertise? Talk with us about becoming a volunteer by filling out a short questionnaire designed to help us get to know you and your interests.
- Oestreich, AE. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1996 166(2):255-8.
- Oestreich, AE. J Natl Med Assoc. 1999 91(7): 414–418.