Submitted by Dr. Graeme M. Bydder, written by Dr. Alexander Norbash, Chair of Radiology, UC San Diego School of Medicine, to UC San Diego Health Sciences Employees.
I am saddened to share that William G. Bradley, Jr, MD, PhD, FACR, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and immediate past Chair of the Department of Radiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, died November 20 in La Jolla. He was 69 years old. Bill was considered by many radiologists of my generation as the father of clinical Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in the early 1980s, and was known for authoring the dominant and definitive reference textbook for radiologists, where MRI was concerned, for at least MRI’s first clinical decade. Bill was my friend for the past 26 years, and I believe I will miss him for the rest of my life.
On behalf of the department, I extend my sincere condolences to Bill’s friends and colleagues, especially his loving wife Rosalind Dietrich, MD, FACR, Professor of Radiology, UC San Diego School of Medicine, and beloved children David, Kristin, India and Felicity.
Bill was famous to many of us as a larger-than-life character, with immeasurable depths of charisma, energy, and brilliance, all highlighted by an expansive character and a loud and joyful laugh that would not be repressed or contained. Several years ago, while living in Boston, I stepped into the cavernous, somber, bleak and crowded club lounge in Dulles airport en route to I can’t remember where. At the check-in desk, while standing in a long and grumbly queue, I heard a hearty and loud laugh every few seconds from the distal recesses of the club lounge that would have made Santa Claus proud. I followed the laugh to its inevitable source and thanked Bill for his infectious disruptiveness.
Bill wasn’t just an uncontainable extrovert, he was one of the dominant architects in health care as it is practiced today, given his profound influence on the development and implementation of MRI as a usable and practical diagnostic tool. More than any other single radiologist in the U.S., Bill helped establish the new discipline of MRI. Bill was set on this quest while in residency training by his sage mentor and legendary Chair of Radiology at UC San Francisco, Alex Margulis, given that Bill was a brilliant Cal Tech Bachelor of Science graduate also possessing a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Princeton. Bill understood the physics of MR at a level very few other radiologists could approach and supplemented this with a curiosity and energy that led to new understanding of many MR image appearances, including flow phenomena (such as even echo rephasing) and the breakdown of blood products after hemorrhage.
He pursued this quest with determination and boundless energy continuing in a setting of private practice, first at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena and then at Long Beach Memorial Hospital. Amazingly, Bill performed almost single-handedly discovery, innovation, teaching and clinical practice at a level that was the envy of fully established academic radiology departments.
Bill came to UC San Diego with a mandate from Ed Holmes, Dean of the School of Medicine, to improve the rating of the radiology department in terms of NIH funding from about the mid-40s to the top ten in the U.S. Within only eight years, Bill had done the unimaginable: he took UC San Diego radiology to the number 8 position nationally in the NIH funding rankings. This he achieved through a rasher of established world-famous faculty members within the department, and as a brilliant talent scout, he recruited a second rasher of current and future field-leaders. Bill importantly possessed the ability to incept a tantalizing vision of the inevitable future in numerous industrial partners, attracting large-scale industrial support for new equipment and on-site technique development, and showsite status for UC San Diego.
Bill was proud and grateful for his collection of gold medals for distinguished and exceptional lifetime achievements awarded by the most prestigious radiology societies; the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), the American College of Radiology, the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM), the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) and the Association of University Radiologists (AUR). These medals were awarded not only for his seminal discoveries and exceptional contributions to the field, but also for his exceptional service to organized radiology. Bill was past president of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM), he was on the Board of Trustees of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Research and Education Foundation (1995–2001) and served as the Chairman of the Fund Development Committee of that organization from 1996 to 2008. Bill was on the Board of Chancellors of the American College of Radiology (ACR), where he chaired the Commission on Neuroradiology and MRI from 1999 to 2005 and served as Vice President from 2005-6. Bill was Chair of the Steering Committee for the Coalition for Imaging and Bioengineering Research (CIBR) and on the Boards of the Academy of Radiology Research (ARR), Association of University Radiologists (AUR), International Society for Strategic Studies in Radiology (ISSSR), and Academy of Radiology Leadership and Management (ARLM).
Bill was a man ahead of his time for the duration of his career. In fact, many of the most recent areas of heightened imaging interest such as hydrocephalus, cerebrospinal fluid flow, and multiple sclerosis follow and rely on work initiated by Bill at various points in the past four decades. Interest in these areas has boomed with the recent (re)discovery of the lymphatics of the brain, which are now demonstrable in vivo with MRI. This promises to be an exciting new area of research.
Truly, a giant has left our side, and we will be the lesser because of it. Bill, may you rest in peace, for assuredly your legacy will endure.