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Woodard named Wilson Professor of Radiology

Recognized for accomplishments in cardiovascular imaging and research

by Tamara BhandariFebruary 25, 2019

Mark Beaven

Pamela K. Woodard, MD, a professor of radiology recognized for her expertise in cardiothoracic radiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been named the inaugural Hugh Monroe Wilson Professor of Radiology.

Noted for her work in cardiovascular imaging and research at the university’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (MIR), she was one of the principal investigators on a landmark trial that established a new standard of care for the diagnosis of blood clots in the lungs. Currently, she is leading a clinical trial for an atherosclerosis imaging agent.

MIR funded and established the endowed chair to honor the legacy of Hugh Monroe Wilson, MD, the second head of the Department of Radiology and MIR. Wilson is remembered as a dedicated and inspiring teacher who believed that training medical students, residents and fellows was the unique responsibility of an academic radiology department. A compassionate clinician, he used to say that a missed diagnosis was a personal loss to both the patient and the radiologist. Wilson died in 1978.

Woodard was installed as the Wilson Professor by Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor of Medicine.

“Hugh Monroe Wilson recognized that basic science and engineering drive advances in radiology that refine diagnostic capabilities and help us provide the best possible care for patients,” Wrighton said. “I am pleased that the inaugural holder of this professorship is Pamela Woodard, a gifted physician whose contributions to cardiovascular imaging are changing the way we practice medicine. In holding this professorship, she carries on a legacy of innovation and leadership.”

Woodard is also senior vice chair and division director of the Radiology Research Facilities, director of the Center for Clinical Imaging Research, head of Advanced Cardiac Imaging CT/MRI, and director of the Radiology Research Residency Program.

In 1995, as a resident at Duke University, Woodard published one of the initial papers showing that blood clots in the lungs could be detected by spiral CT scan, a kind of scan that uses radiation to detect small abnormalities. As an assistant professor at Washington University School of Medicine, she was one of the principal investigators of a clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that resulted in a landmark paper in The New England Journal of Medicine. The research established multidetector CT as the standard of care for diagnosing blood clots in the lungs. This type of CT scan uses an array of detectors to acquire multiple images simultaneously.

Also a professor of biomedical engineering, Woodard focuses on imaging of atherosclerotic plaques to understand how inflammation affects plaques. She holds several patents for atherosclerosis imaging agents. She and her team have developed a PET radiotracer that detects a protein associated with plaques that may be unstable and prone to causing sudden major problems such as a heart attack or stroke. She now leads a clinical trial to evaluate the tracer in people. Woodard also is involved in evaluating novel PET agents to assess blood flow through heart muscle. Poor blood flow is a sign of cardiovascular disease that could cause serious problems such as heart attacks.

“In establishing this professorship, we are celebrating the legacy of Dr. Wilson and the accomplishments of the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, while also recognizing a truly phenomenal member of our faculty,” Perlmutter said. “The inaugural recipient, Dr. Woodard, like Dr. Wilson, is both a leader in the department and a phenomenal clinician who has demonstrated a deep commitment to the health and well-being of others.”

Woodard is a fellow of the American College of Radiology, the American Heart Association, the American College of Chest Physicians, and the North American Society for Cardiovascular Imaging. She has been named an Academy of Radiology Research Distinguished Investigator.

Woodard earned her bachelor’s degree and medical degree at Duke. She completed her internship in internal medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her residency in radiology at Duke before coming to Washington University for a clinical fellowship in cardiothoracic radiology. She joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1997.

Richard L. Wahl, MD, the Elizabeth E. Mallinckrodt Professor and head of the Department of Radiology and director of MIR, said Woodard is committed to improving patient care and mentoring the next generation of scientists — much as Wilson was.

“Dr. Woodard is an ideal choice as the first recipient of the Hugh Monroe Wilson Professor of Radiology,” Wahl said. “She is a distinguished physician-scientist, clinician and educator. Her work on cardiovascular imaging has had global impact, and she is a national leader in organized radiology. I’m delighted her many accomplishments can be honored by the awarding of this professorship, named after the highly impactful former director of MIR.  I look forward to her future contributions facilitated by the resources of this professorship.”

Wilson served as head of the Department of Radiology and director of MIR for 14 years. A modest man, he refused almost all public recognition, acceding only to the establishment of an award in his name for medical students who demonstrated excellence in radiology.

Born in Jacksonville, Ill., Wilson completed his bachelor’s degree at Illinois College before earning his medical degree at Washington University in 1927. After training in radiology at MIR, Wilson moved to Yale in 1934 but returned to Washington University to become head of radiology in 1949. After stepping down in 1963, he continued an active teaching role until 1967. Recognizing the need for an annual meeting of young clinicians and scientists in radiology to present and critically analyze research data, Wilson also was a founder of the Association of University Radiologists.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.