Faculty image W. Leslie Rogers Professor & Sr. Res.Scientist Emeritus Int. Med & Professor Emeritus Biomedical Engineering


I was born March 27, 1934, in Boston, Massachusetts.  After living in New York City for a few years, the family moved to a new housing development a few miles north of White Plains, New York.  It was around 1942 and the war had begun.  Since new houses were no longer under construction, the development was sparse with many acres of empty lots with wild strawberries.   We had a victory garden and raised chickens for eggs.  Our family radio had a short wave channel and one of my most memorable moments was listening to a broadcast from London during a bombing raid and listening to the explosions.  My mother served as an air raid warden and wandered the neighborhood checking to see that the blackout shades were drawn and no light from neighborhood houses was visible.  She and I also picked milkweed pods that we were informed would be used for life jackets.

When I was in 8th grade, the family moved to Pleasantville, N.Y. where I also attended high school.  After graduation I attended Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio and graduated in 1955 with an A.B. in Physics.

The following years included graduate School at Case Institute of Technology (MS).  I spent 1961-1962 as a Lecturer at University of Wyoming and went back to Case Institute where I obtained a PhD in nuclear physics.  From 1968-1970, I served as Senior Engineer at Bendix Aerospace Systems.

In 1970, I joined the University of Michigan:

1970-1973     Research Associate, Department of Internal Medicine

1973-1980     Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine

1980-1984     Associate Research Scientist, Departments of Internal Medicine and  Physics

1984-1987     Research Scientist, Department of Internal Medicine

1987-1989     Associate Professor and Research Scientist, Department of Internal Medicine

1989-1996     Professor and Research Scientist, Department of Internal Medicine

1996-2000     Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School

                            and Professor of Biomedical Engineering,  College of Engineering

2000              Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine and Senior Research Scientist Emeritus 

                           and Professor Emeritus of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering

Curriculum Vitae


 Memoirs of the University of Michigan

(December 30 2014 LR) (December 30 2014 BH) 


My wife, Ann and I arrived in Ann Arbor with 3 young daughters in 1968. I had just been awarded a PhD in Physics from Case Institute in Cleveland and had been offered a position at Bendix Aerospace to work on a project to design a Life Detector Module for the Mars Lander project. I was also assigned to work on an NIH subcontract that Bendix had from Dr. William Beierwaltes, who headed the Division of Nuclear Medicine at the University of Michigan. The project was to design and build an image intensifier camera that would create images of the distribution of I131 (a radioactive isotope of iodine) in the human thyroid. The aim was to detect thyroid cancer and provide a measure of 

thyroid function. I met with Dr. Beierwaltes several time to discuss the project and also with Dr. John Keyes, a physician from nuclear medicine who was interested in imaging research. 


As it turned out, Bendix was not awarded the Life Detector contract and the future did not look promising. At this point, Dr. Beierwaltes asked if I would be willing to come to U of M to work on this project full time. John Keyes and Glenn Knoll, who was Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, also encouraged the idea. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity and have never regretted it. Bendix did eventually leave Ann Arbor. 


Dr.Beierwaltes, who was often addressed as Dr. B., ran Nuclear Medicine more like a family than a business. The atmosphere was friendly, relaxed, and informal. As time progressed, I found U of M to be a remarkable institution. Collaboration between different departments and schools was encouraged. I was quickly able to establish or participate in joint research projects with Professors Larry Jones in the Department of Physics and Glen Knoll. We were all willing to share and help support graduate students for these projects. 


After I had been at U of M for about 2 years, a man came into my office and introduced himself as Bill Kelly, head of the Department of Internal Medicine. He mentioned that he liked to meet new employees and asked what I was working on. I said that I was working on the NIH thyroid imaging project for Dr. Beierwaltes. That was well and good he stated, but it was very important for me to understand that researchers were also fully expected to obtain their own research grants. The message was clear and after some time I was in fact awarded an NIH grant of my own. When I had been at Michigan for several years, NIH asked if I would be willing to participate in the grant review process. Of course the answer was yes. 


If initial review of the research proposal was determined to be of interest, a site visit to the university was often scheduled. During the visit, the NIH visitor could meet and talk with the research group who would present their research plan and show initial results that supported their approach to the problem. Furthermore, the reviewer was able to visit the laboratory and determine whether the facilities that would be used to conduct the research were appropriate and that there was evidence that the university was providing their share of research support. As a site visitor, I greatly enjoyed meeting and discussing the research projects with the research team. Often these were people whose publications I had read and enjoyed. The free exchange of information was of mutual benefit. After participating in the review process for a while I really began to appreciate how well designed and fair this process was. If a potential reviewer felt that there might be a real or perceived conflict of interest, they could so indicate this and would be excused from the review. It really seemed to work very well. 


One of the most remarkable things about U of M was the number of physicians who came here from all over the world for specialty training in nuclear medicine or various other specialties. Others were post graduate students from a variety of universities who came to do research related to their dissertations. In a number of cases, I actually served as a member of their dissertation committee and visited their university for the oral examination. When I went to Japan in 1974 to attend the first meeting of the World Congress of Nuclear Medicine, I was invited to stay at the home of Rikushi Morita who had been a fellow at U of M. Among other things, I learned about the risky practice of eating Fugu fish. The vital organs of this fish are extremely toxic and preparation of this fish for human consumption is a very precise process. The flesh, which is considered a delicacy, is only very mildly toxic. Nevertheless, when your lips turn numb, it is time to stop.


 Andrej Studen came to Michigan from Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2005 to pursue a PhD research project related to a new type of gammaray imaging detector. Marcos Mikuz was his advisor from University of Ljubljana. I and another member of Nuclear Medicine, Neal Clinthorne, served as his local advisors. I served as a member of his doctoral committee and was privileged to visit Ljubiana for his oral examination. He passed.  While in Ljubiana I visited with Marcos and his family. Marcos had suggested that I should spend some extra time in Slovenia to do some sightseeing. After the exam, Marcos asked if I would like to see more of the country. The answer, of course, was yes and he drove us northeast to the Swiss border. It was a beautiful trip through a land of lakes and views of snowcapped mountains. I also was a member of the doctoral committee for a student from Spain and enjoyed that visit very much. 


A number of other events came to mind as I engaged in this project. One morning, after attending a meeting of some sort in the Administration Building, I was heading back to my office. I encountered a man heading in the same direction and we began to chat. I inquired what department he was from. I am U of M president he replied as he disappeared into his office.


Members of Nuclear Medicine frequently held parties to which all were invited. One stands out in my memory. It was a Halloween party put on by several of the Nuclear Medicine technologists. It was well under way when a rather strange couple knocked at the door. They were dressed as ghosts and no one knew them. Party crashers were not unusual and we assumed they had heard the laughter and music and thought they should join in the fun.  As this couple circulated, several people thought there was something familiar about these strangers. This, as it turned out, it was because they were none other than Bill and Mary Martha Beierwaltes. 


When Dr. Beierwaltes retired in 1987, Dr. David Kuhl was named head of Nuclear Medicine and the informal atmosphere remained intact. 


When I retired in 2000, Dr. Kuhl organized a gala reception that was held in Towsely Hall and attended by many in Nuclear Medicine and other departments. Among them was my daughter, Virginia and her two year old son Owen. Food and beverages were supplied. After the party had quieted down, Dr. Kuhl called me forward and congratulated me and made numerous humorous and flattering comments. He then presented me with a lovely wooden chair with the University of Michigan logo carved into to backrest. I was invited to sit in the chair. Just as I was comfortably seated, and much to the delight of those present, Owen, my 2 year old grandson, jumped out of his mother’s arms, raced over and jumped into my lap. Retirement was complete. 


Well after I had retired, I was walking down Zina Pitcher Place where the old Kresge building was being demolished. I walked over to one of the workmen who was wielding a jackhammer and mentioned to him that he was destroying my old office and laboratory. He glanced up, smiled, and responded that he had helped to construct that building. Time does march on. 


I have asked a colleague, Beth Harkness, if she would contribute some of her memories. Beth was a Nuclear Medicine technologist at that time. Technologists dealt directly with the patients and performed the imaging. I thought it would be of interest to include her memories from a very different point of view. Beth’s contribution follows. 


I started working in the nuclear medicine department at the University of Michigan in February 1979. I had been working as a nuclear medicine technologist at a Detroit hospital and had attended a continuing education meeting where Jim Carey, the physicist at U of M, was the speaker. He had happened to mention that they had 2 positions for technologists; one in the clinic and one in research. I was very interested. I had completed my Nuclear medicine technologist training 6 months before and I knew that working at U of M would help me learn new technology that was not included in my training program. I applied for the clinical job and with support from Jim Carey, I was hired. 


I worked as a clinical technologist for about a year and a half. The learning opportunities were vast. I enjoyed going to the division conferences. The technologists also had a weekly meeting and as part of that meeting a technologist was assigned to work with one of the nuclear medicine fellows to review and revise an imaging protocol. The technologists were also encouraged to work with the fellows on different research projects. Along the way I learned about computers and image processing. The physicians, particularly Drs. Keyes and Thrall, were always willing to explain why a particular study was acquired and processed in a certain way. The technologists would go to the reading room on the 5th floor in the afternoons after they had completed their assignments. At this time the residents and fellows read and interpreted the day’s imaging studies. I remember Dr. Matovinovic running up the stairs from the 5th to the 10th floors of the old hospital to read the cardiac scans. Winded residents and fellows arrived on the 10th floor following behind a much more senior, and not winded, Dr. Matovinovic. I learned so much and had a lot of fun along the way. 


In late 1980, I changed positions from the clinic to work for Dr. John Keyes with his research group on producing 3-dimensional clinical images of the nuclear medical studies. Dr. Les Rogers, Neal Clinthorne, and a technologist, Kathy Worthington, were working with Dr. Keyes to implement single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) in the clinic. This was a truly great learning experience. These were the early days of single photon tomography and everything was new and exciting. Tomographic images were 3dimensional images of the distribution of the radioactive tracer that had been injected into the patient. One of the early procedures was the use of a radioactive isotope of thallium to evaluate blood flow to the heart muscle. We had a camera to form images of the thallium distribution, but no software to compute and display quantitative image data. And there were problems with the image quality. Neal wrote software so we could acquire and process images while Les Rogers worked on solving the image quality issues. I learned much from that group of people. I have always been amazed and proud that the work that was done on SPECT imaging by Drs. Keyes and Rogers, Neal Clinthorne, and the others that worked in that group is still used in almost all nuclear medicine departments today. 


Working in nuclear medicine at the University of Michigan at that that time was truly a unique experience. The scientists and physicians were all so willing to teach and mentor people like me that were eager to learn. But it was more than that. There was a true camaraderie. We didn’t just work together; we had a lot of fun together. There were parties like Buzzards Day, Rite of Spring, Halloween, Thanksgiving dinner for those that didn’t have family in the area, and Dr. Bierwaltes annual Christmas party. All of these were at the homes of folks that worked in nuclear medicine. Everyone was invited and it really gave the group an opportunity to relax and get to know each other and the families of our coworkers. There were lunches at the Del Rio, Bicycle Jim’s, and Dominick’s when the weather was nice. We had so much fun. Many of these people are still my friends today, some 35 years later. I see them after long periods of time and these are the friends that you connect with as though you had met them yesterday. 


Those years at the University of Michigan were very special and are a big part of what made me who I am professionally today. My experiences in the Nuclear Medicine Department at the University of Michigan helped motivate me to go to graduate school. While working on my master’s thesis, Les Rogers helped me get reconstruction software from one of his graduate students that I then implemented on the latest SPECT system. Once you were part of the Michigan family, you were always part of the family and they were always ready to help. 


I don’t think I really understood the adventure on which I was about to embark when I accepted that job as a clinical technologist. Everyone I worked with in nuclear medicine was so friendly and helpful. It turned out to be a wonderful place with special people that one is truly lucky to encounter even once in a lifetime. I am now a nuclear medicine physicist and have worked at different hospitals but, I will always remember fondly and appreciate those wonderful years I spent working in nuclear medicine at the University of Michigan.

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