A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

A Towering Vision

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A professorship helps diagnostic imaging build on its success.

From his third-floor office at Rhode Island Hospital, John J. Cronan, MD, can see the East Providence water tower that loomed over his morning walks to Sacred Heart Catholic School, over his afternoon paper route, over his childhood. After three decades working to advance training, research, and patient care in radiology and in that tower’s distant view, he has been honored as the inaugural Charles and Elfriede Collis- Frances Weeden Gibson Professor of Diagnostic Imaging.

The endowed professorship was given by the estate of Frances Weeden Gibson ’45, P’58 and an equal gift to Rhode Island Hospital from Charles and Elfriede Collis P’87. The Collis family has for years supported patient care, research, and education at Brown and Lifespan hospitals. Their gifts include the Charles and Ellen Collis Medical Scholarship, which supports MD/PhD students, and the Andrew F. Anderson Emergency Center at Rhode Island Hospital, in memory of their son.

Elfriede Collis has served as a member of the Rhode Island Hospital board of trustees and chair of the Rhode Island Hospital Foundation board, providing leadership in support of patient and family needs. Gibson served as a Brown Trustee from 1967 to 1972 and was instrumental in the founding of the Medical School. Her estate also funded an endowed professorship in emergency medicine.

Cronan says he is honored to be the inaugural recipient of the professorship, and that it “is a testimony to the department’s growth.” A graduate of Providence College, he decided to pursue radiology during his second year at Albany Medical College of Union University: CT-scan technology was spreading to hospitals, and the “excitement was immeasurable,” he says. He joined Brown’s faculty in 1982 after completing his residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital and fellowship in abdominal imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital. When he arrived at Brown, the then-fledgling Medical School had no department of radiology, the hospital’s imaging facilities and equipment were substandard, and the residency had been threatened with probation. But Cronan saw “unlimited opportunity.” In 1995, Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Donald J. Marsh, MD, asked him to develop a department. When the department was formally recognized three years later, Cronan was appointed its inaugural chair.

Since then, the department has grown to encompass 55 attending physicians, 28 residents, and five fellows. Residents perform at the highest level on their American Board of Radiology exams. Research in the department has also grown, attracting $2 million in funding a year. Technologies are cutting edge and widespread throughout the four hospitals the department serves. But Cronan’s greatest achievement, he says, is the faculty he has recruited: “Great people are most important.” The professorship will advance this aim, helping to attract additional top faculty to the department, and bolstering training and research.

From his office, Cronan often glances at that water tower. Immutable, it reminds him of how much has changed, and how much there is to achieve. In philanthropy and radiology, in life and medicine, that kind of vision is vital.

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