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2009 Gold Medalist - Dr. O. Clark West



O. Clark West, MD, FACR, was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1960. He graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines with a gold cord (top 3% of graduating class) in 1978. He attended Drake University in Des Moines, a school attended by his family for four generations including both paternal grandparents, both parents, an uncle and a few cousins. At Drake University, he majored in biology in preparation for medical school. At the Crawford residence hall "Hat Party" in October, 1978, he met his future wife, Victoria Renee Kiechler. During freshman and sophomore years, he played tenor saxophone with the Drake University Jazz Lab Ensemble. The time required to prepare for the MCAT examination resulted in an eight-year hiatus in his avocation as a jazz musician. He received undergraduate honors as both a freshman and a senior as top student in biology, and graduated in Summa Cum Laude from the College of Liberal Arts in 1982. At Drake University, he was elected to membership in several honor societies including Phi Eta Sigma Freshman Honor Society, Mortar Board Honor Society, and Phi Beta Kappa. 

Clark and Victoria toured Europe on $20-a-day in the summer after college and then moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he entered medical school at Washington University School of Medicine. He received his medical degree in 1986 and was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha. During his clinical training, he had an interest in both internal medicine and diagnostic radiology. He decided to pursue cardiology or gastroenterology, and kept radiology as a backup. In 1986, he entered a three-year program in internal medicine at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. Within weeks of starting this program, Clark realized that this was a career misstep, so he applied for and was accepted into a diagnostic radiology residency at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (MIR) in St. Louis for the entering class of 1988. Highlights of the period: Clark and Victoria were married in St. Louis in May, 1983, near the end of his intern year; Clark met two new faculty members in the bone and joint section of MIR, who became his teachers, mentors, and friends: Tony Wilson and Fred Mann.

Clark's first month of his residency in Diagnostic Radiology was in the bone and joint section and was a formative event for his later career development. He joined the "Hot Docs" jazz big band in 1988 and continued to play with the band until he left St. Louis in 1997. He directed the band from 1990-1992 and 1995-1997. Highlights of radiology residency included travel to Egypt and Europe, a white-water rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, and canoe trips in the Ozarks. Clark and Victoria's only child, Rebecca Kathryn, was born just before the oral board examination in April, 1992.

During his radiology residency, Clark developed an interest in trauma imaging in the newly formed trauma center at Barnes Hospital. Following completion of his residency in 1992, he undertook fellowship training in trauma radiology with Stuart Mirvis and Kathirkamanthan Shanmuganathan at The Maryland Shock-Trauma Center in Baltimore for six months, followed by six months of fellowship training in musculoskeletal radiology back home at MIR. In 1993, Clark joined the faculty of MIR as an instructor of radiology in the Bone and Joint Section, specializing in emergency radiology. Following the departure of Fred Mann and later of Tony Wilson, Clark became chief of Emergency Radiology Clinical Service in 1994. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1995. The relatively small trauma center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis was not conducive to specialization in major trauma imaging, so he began to look for a position at a larger trauma center. After interviewing at six other trauma centers across the nation, he found a new home with Stan Goldman and Jack Harris at The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, where Clark, Victoria, and Rebecca moved in 1997, just before Rebecca started kindergarten.

During his 12 years at UT-Houston, Clark has had the opportunity to specialize in the imaging of multiple trauma patients. The trauma center at Memorial Hermann Hospital-Texas Medical Center grew to become the nation's busiest trauma center in 2009, following the closure of the trauma center at UTMB in Galveston after Hurricane Ike. With Jack Harris's retirement in 1999, Clark became chief of emergency and trauma imaging at UT-Houston. In 2002, he was promoted to associate professor. He is currently program director of the recently reorganized Sports, Orthopedic and Emergency Imaging Fellowship and trains two fellows each year.

Clark's major academic interest has been in the education of radiology residents and practicing radiologists in the imaging of multiple trauma patients. His areas of particular interest include cervical spine imaging and the imaging of major vascular injuries. He has presented two major named lectures, served as visiting professor on 16 occasions, lectured at 39 national radiology conferences, four international radiology conferences, and given numerous lectures in St. Louis and Houston. 

A second area of focus for Clark is the advancement of emergency radiology within organized radiology. He has moved up the leadership ladder in the American Society of Emergency Radiology. He joined ASER in 1992 during his fellowship and finished his term as president in 2008. He served for six years as the emergency radiology representative on the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) Categorical Course Committee and currently provides similar services to the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) as Emergency Radiology Subcommittee chair for the Refresher Course Committee. He directed the first ever Categorical Course on Emergency and Trauma Radiology at the ARRS in 2000. He serves on the American College of Radiology subcommittee on emergency radiology, and is active in the development of electronic image transfer between emergency centers. While maintaining his pledge never to serve as an oral board examiner, Clark recently agreed to chair the committee developing a new examination in general radiology for the American Board of Radiology. Along the way, Clark has been the author or co-author of 28 publications in peer-reviewed journals, 11 invited articles, and five book chapters. He was inducted as a fellow of the American College of Radiology in 2009.

Clark, Victoria and Rebecca all became scuba divers in 2003. The family dives at least two weeks per year and each member has logged over 300 dives. Clark started swimming regularly in 2004, rapidly developing an obsession for the sport. When time permits, he informally coaches other adult fitness swimmers in efficient swimming techniques. In 2009, he expects to log more than 200 miles in the U.S.  Masters Swimming "Go the Distance" fitness challenge. 


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