Since 1963, Nuclear Medicine was a section of the Department of Therapeutic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, headed by Dr. A. Antunez in the Division of Radiology at the Cleveland Clinic. During the early period, only iodine-131 was used for the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid diseases. Although technetium-99m, the most common tracer used in nuclear medicine, was available in the form of Mo-99 – Tc-99m generators since 1963, it was not commercially available until the late sixties. Imaging of patients for bone, lung, and brain diseases was performed using Tc-99m tracers and rectilinear scanners that were slow and had limited accuracy.
Invention of gamma cameras by Hal Anger in 1954 and their subsequent commercialization replaced the rectilinear scanners, thus improving the accuracy and efficiency of nuclear medicine studies. Development of many organ-specific radiotracers added to the progress of nuclear medicine. William MacIntyre, Ph.D., an internationally known physicist, joined the department in the early seventies to improve the quality of existing nuclear medicine studies and introduced new techniques, particularly the cardiac studies.
Nuclear Medicine had grown to the point that in 1978 a new Department of Nuclear Medicine was created within the Division of Radiology, to be headed by Sebastian A. Cook, M.D. who hired Raymundo T. Go, M.D. as a staff physician. In 1983, Dr Cook left for private practice and Dr Go succeeded him as department chairman, which he continued until 1999. Under his leadership augmented by the guidance and expertise of Dr. MacIntyre, the department saw a phenomenal growth with the introduction of single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) in nuclear medicine, particularly in cardiac studies. Two physicians, James O’Donnell, M.D., and David Feiglin, M.D., were added to the staff in 1983-1984 to meet the increase load of patient studies. In 1984, Gopal B. Saha, Ph.D. was hired as the Director of Nuclear Chemistry and Pharmacy to manage the nuclear pharmacy laboratory.
Prior to 1987, the Department of Nuclear Medicine was located in the original clinic T-building, with the nuclear cardiac studies performed in the basement of the H-building. When the G-building was built, the entire department moved to its basement in 1987, with an area much larger than in the original T-building. Many sophisticated cameras and computers were added to the armamentarium of the imaging equipment. A nuclear pharmacy laboratory was established by Dr. Saha with full amenities for routine clinical studies and sponsored clinical trials, which has been highly acclaimed by Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Joint Commission Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). In 1988, a new chapter was opened in nuclear medicine with the addition of a positron emission tomography (PET) camera for cardiac and neurological studies. Following the attrition of Drs. O’Donnell and Feiglin in 1988, Drs. Patrice Rehm, Donald Neumann, Mohammad Antar, Ben Kim, Oliver Wong, Shanker Raja, Sebastian Cook (rehired), Richard Brunken, and Bohdan Bybel joined the department over the years and many left except Drs. Brunken and Neumann who are still dedicated to the service in the department. In the interim, Dr. Eric Chen was hired as a physicist for prospective replacement of Dr. MacIntyre, but left after two years for a better opportunity. In the December of 1999, Dr. Go resigned from the chairmanship and Dr. Neumann became the acting chairman. A search committee appointed by the Board of Governors hired Jean-Luc Urbain, M.D.,Ph.D., as the chairman of the department. During his tenure, physicist Frank DiFilippo, Ph.D. was hired, who has improved the quality of imaging by introducing a series of quality control measures for the scanners. Manuel D. Cerqueira, M.D. was appointed as the new chairman of the department in July of 2004, and has been steering the department in a new direction for the better with the recruitment of new staff physicians, Shyam Srinivas,M.D.,Ph.D., Sankaran Shrikanthan, M.D., and Steve Huang, M.D.,Ph.D. Under his leadership and with the administrative expertise of Shashi Khandekar who has been the Administrator of the department for many years, state-of-the art equipment has been added to the department including three SPECT/CT, three PET/CT and six traditional gamma cameras.
In early 2008, the department moved to a new location in the Miller Family Pavilion occupying a much larger and custom designed space in the new Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute. The move into the new 27,000 square foot facility facilitated the acquisition of a Cyclotron that enables on-site production of customized PET tracers for both clinical and research needs.