History of the Department

Yale's Department of Radiology began in 1934 with the appointment of Dr. Hugh M. Wilson as the first chairperson. Like so many of America's radiology departments, Yale's Department of Radiology began as a section of the Department of Surgery rather than an independent department. Yale University School of Medicine listed one radiology course for medical students in the Department of Surgery as early as 1921, but a formal radiology residency, rather than apprenticeship, did not begin until the 1940s.

Formal recognition of Radiology as a separate department of the medical school from an administrative perspective occurred in 1945. However, it wasn't until the late 1950s under the leadership of Dr. Arnold Janzen, chairperson of Radiology 1949-1957, and Dr. Alfred Snoke, the president of YNHH, that Radiology became a fully independent department with a separate budget from Surgery for equipment and staffing.

With the opening of the Hunter Radiation Therapy Center in 1958, and the appointment of Dr. Morton M. Kligerman as Chair of Radiology in the same year, Yale's Department of Radiology finally achieved full departmental status, ending years of struggle between past chairs and the deans and presidents of the hospital. By 1961, Dr. Kligerman had appointed Dr. Richard H. Greenspan to lead the newly formed Section of Diagnostic Radiology.

Again, like many other departments in America, Radiation Therapy, now known as Therapeutic Radiology, was diverging from Diagnostic Radiology. It was clear that with the growth of diagnostic subspecialties, the sophistication of imaging technology and radiation biology and therapy, that it was impossible to become proficient in all these specialties during a 3 year residency. By 1967, many of the diagnostic radiology superstars had left Yale for greener pastures, including Dr. Greenspan, who returned in 1972 to lead the newly created Department of Diagnostic Radiology. A new department of therapeutic radiology was formed under Dr. James J. Fischer.

By the early 1970s, diagnostic and therapeutic radiology were separate departments in most American medical schools. The duration of training in diagnostic radiology was 3 years and then extended to 4 years in 1982. Technology in diagnostic imaging was developing rapidly. Computed tomography, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, and digital subtraction angiography led the advances and prepared the way for MRI in the mid-1980s. Between 1972 and 1986, Diagnostic Radiology continued to grow and many future leaders of American radiology were trained in the department.

Dr. Anne McBride Curtis served as acting chair of Yale Diagnostic Radiology between 1986 and 1988. Between 1988 and 1995, Dr. Robert I. White served as chair, followed by Dr. Bruce McClennan from 1995 to 2002. During these 16 years of tremendous growth in the department, separate sections of imaging science, magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy were formed. The subspecialty of Cardiovascular Radiology became Interventional Radiology complete with clinics and over 150 short-stay admissions yearly. Over the last 2-3 decades, diagnostic imaging transformed from primarily an X-ray based specialty to include sophisticated techniques based on computer tomography, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging. The more recent healthcare revolution of managed care led to an emphasis on controlling cost and decreasing reimbursement. At the same time, the digital revolution was born and the transformation to a filmless department with 24-7 coverage became a reality.

In 2006, Dr. James Brink was appointed Chair of the Department of Diagnostic Radiology. Nationally recognized as an outstanding educator and an authority on abdominal CT imaging, Brink has pioneered technologies for maximizing resolution in multi-slice CT scanning while minimizing radiation dosage and risk to patients and is also a nationally recognized authority on radiation exposure related to medical imaging. He co-chairs the “Image Wisely” initiative, a social marketing campaign to increase awareness of educational materials related to adult radiation protection. In 2013, Dr. Brink left Yale to become chairman of Diagnostic Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Dr. Rob Goodman will serve as interim chairman in addition to his duties as Chief of Pediatric Radiology. Dr Goodman has been the department's  Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs since 2007 and was been an integral part of Yale Diagnostic Radiology's integration with the Hospital of St. Raphael since the Yale-New Haven Hospital acquisition in 2012. Despite the “fast forward” changes of healthcare, Yale's Diagnostic Radiology has continued to maintain a leadership role among American diagnostic radiology departments in terms of clinical care, research, and teaching.

Written by Robert I. White Jr., MD
Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist in Diagnostic Radiology