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Q&A with SNMMI president-elect Richard Wahl

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | June 11, 2021
Molecular Imaging
From the June 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

The other moment was with the radiolabeled antibodies. This was a case where a patient was treated with anI-131 anti-CD20 antibody for a large tumor of the abdomen. Looking at the CT scan 12 weeks later and seeing the tumor had shrunk by over 50% with this radiolabeled antibody was quite exciting.

So, it’s one discovery on the diagnostic side and one on the therapy side, and I remember both very clearly as things that could make a real difference to patients.

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HCB News: How long have you been a member of SNMMI?
RW: I think it was roughly 1983 when I joined, and I’ve been to every meeting since, and virtually last year and this year.

HCB News: What drew you to nuclear medicine?
RW: I went to medical school at Washington School of Medicine. Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology was a big department with a major presence in terms of the medical student education curriculum. I was familiar with radiology; I thought it was interesting based on my rotations through different fields. My challenge was that I liked pretty much everything I rotated through as a medical student, and I was reluctant to specialize in one organ system.

My first rotation in radiology was within nuclear medicine. I thought it was really interesting to deal with the entire body. And I was a chemistry major and very interested in physiology. So those fields grew together — chemistry, biology, medicine of the entire body — so that breadth of interest was very interesting to me.

HCB News: What do you most appreciate about being a member of SNMMI?
RW: I wouldn’t say it’s any one thing, but SNMMI has been one of the major scientific and clinical organizations of my career. It allows for growth and recognition of people from entry-level residents and faculty up to senior-level leadership. It’s a society that maintains a scientific and educational focus.

A couple of my highlights: I was fortunate to receive a few awards from the society. Being selected to deliver the highlights of the Annual Meetings was a nice honor, and I received the De Hevesy Award for contributions to nuclear medicine, and the Saul Hertz Award for radiopharmaceutical therapy. I was very fortunate to receive a couple of awards, and they were noteworthy to me because those were areas I’ve worked in for a long time. Working with the society, helping play a role in getting FDG-PET approved for cancer imaging, was also very important. To see the things I’ve worked on over decades get Medicare reimbursed was exceptional.

HCB News: What will your initiatives be as president?

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