The History of Ultrasound: The Early Days of Ultrasound at Bowman Gray University

September 14, 2006

OBGYN.net Conference CoverageFrom 45th Annual Conference of the AIUM - Orlando, FL 2001

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Dr. Eric Blackwell: "I'm Eric Blackwell, I'm Co-Editor of the History of Ultrasound project for OBGYN.net along with Joan Baker and with tremendous help from Terry DuBose. I've been fortunate enough here at the 45th Annual AIUM convention in Orlando to run into some old acquaintances from what was the Bowman Gray School of Medicine when I was there, and it's now the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Bowman Gray Campus. How did I do?"

Marie King: "Wonderful."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "Good, I have on my immediate left Mary Penry and to her left is Marie King. I'd just like to talk with them a little bit and give them a chance to talk to us about the early days of ultrasound at Bowman Gray and their whole experience in ultrasound because they've been doing this as long as anybody I know basically. Marie, I think we'll start with you because I believe you're actually the first one that had your foot in the door of the two of you. Is that right?" How did you get involved?"

Marie King: "I started out as tray technician and I just went to Bowman Gray because someone had told me that there was a school to teach people how to do ultrasound. I went, observed for a day, went home, and told my husband it was wonderful and I wanted to do it. He said nothing can be that good. I went back a second day, quit my job, borrowed money, and went back to school. I was in the class of 1976; it was a ten-week program and we did everything from ophthalmology, obstetrics, abdomen, cardiology, and vascular. It was probably one of the longest programs in the country at that time and I've been doing it ever since."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "Did I understand correctly when we were talking before that you were talking about some of the other people in that class and I believe Kerr Spencer was one of them?"

Marie King: "Kerr Spencer was."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "He's now with Terason."

Marie King: "Correct."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "Can you remember some other early names?"

Marie King: "Ralph Barnes was also one of my classmates, he's one of the physicists. Fred Kremkau was one of my professors."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "He is now your boss."

Marie King: "He's now one of my bosses. Lew Nelson was also there as a lecturer."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "Nelson is an obstetrician who's a pioneer."

Marie King: "A pioneer in ultrasound. Joe Holmes was one of our original lecturers who came in and Dr. Bill McKinney and Dr. Jim Martin had invited the people who were instrumental in the early days of ultrasound to come in and do a lot of lectures. So we met a lot of the early pioneers in our courses and I feel very fortunate to have been associated with those people way back when it was just starting off."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "Mary, how did you find your way into the ultrasound field?"

Mary Penry: "I was a nurse in labor and delivery and there was a push at that time to combine the ultrasound services between the two hospitals in Winston-Salem with the idea that they would have an area where pregnant ladies could go and have everything that they needed in the way of diagnostic testing - non-stress tests, ultrasound, and what have you."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "You were a nurse?"

Mary Penry: "I was a nurse and I was lucky enough to be working with Dr. Nelson, and so I began my career following him around from patient to patient and then he sent me down to the ultrasound school. I worked with Bonnie Bartley who was one of the instructors when Marie was there, and with the exception of Saturday and Sunday, I spent all of my days off and every afternoon after work in the ultrasound school doing studies. Dr. Nelson was kind enough to read studies so I could get the experience."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "Some of the other names that I remember from back then that I'm sure we must have in common would be Steve Anderson who was an obstetrician. I remember when he got the first ADR unit and he didn't have anybody to record things, he asked me to come over with my 8mm home movie camera and we made some of the first films of moving baby pictures."

Mary Penry: "I actually remember the first ultrasound that I ever saw was in labor and delivery when Steve Anderson brought up a machine which amounted to an oscilloscope. I saw three little spikes."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "So not even an image, this was A-mode?"

Mary Penry: "Not even an image, it was A-mode and the idea was to determine the gestational age on a fetus."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "Now you both are still involved with the Center for Medical Ultrasound, is that correct?"

Marie King: "Yes and no, I'm 25% education there and 75% clinical. Occasionally, I can entice Mary to come over and help teach a class."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "Of the early pioneers on the medical side, I know you already mentioned several of them - Joe Holmes of course means so much to the AIUM organization, Bill McKinney who was a president of the organization, and there's Fred Kremkau who is the past president of the organization.

Marie King: "Correct."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "Are there any other people that really stand out in your minds as lecturers or people that did a lot for pushing ultrasound forward in the early days?"

Marie King: "Even though they weren't actually involved in the ultrasound, per say, Dr. McCreight and Dr. Bo were our anatomy professors. They made sure that we understood all of the anatomy that we were seeing and so I think they were very, very instrumental, and they also helped Dr. Nelson write a cross sectional fetal anatomy book that was used."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "I remember that, that was back in the days when we hadn't quite decided which way to display things whether you would from the foot of the table or the head of the table."

Marie King: "Correct."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "I'm glad you brought them up, they truly were. One of the things about Bowman Gray in the early days was when you're talking about Bill McKinney, who was my mentor, he was a neurologist but very much interested in ultrasound and the carotids and everything else but he was truly a recruiter. He didn't mind crossing boundaries so we had people from cardiology, radiology, neurology, anatomy and it was unique back in those days, there were very few other places, perhaps Dr. Goldberg's place in Philadelphia and some of the others but really a pioneering effort."

Mary Penry: "Yes, he felt that nobody should ever be excluded from the field of ultrasound. The more of us in the boat, the more there were to paddle."

Dr. Eric Blackwell: "I'm really grateful that you were both willing to take a little bit of time and talk with us here. For those of you watching, we have a website if you go to the OBGYN.net homepage then you can find a link to the history of ultrasound. There are some material up there, and I hope you'll take a look and then make any comments or send in any corrections or suggestions because this is suppose to be something that links people all over the world that had pioneering experience in this. So thank you both again, very glad to catch up with you here, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Orlando.

Mary Penry: "Always."

Marie King: "Thank you, Dr. Blackwell."