Dr. Frederick Bonte, Professor Emeritus of Radiology who led the creation of UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Radiology Department, became its first chairman, established one of the nation's first academic nuclear medicine laboratories, and served as Dean of UT Southwestern Medical School, passed away November 28 at age 94.
A renowned pioneer in the field of Nuclear Medicine, Dr. Bonte received national attention for innovations he and his colleagues made in linking computers with isotope scanning to measure blood flow.
“Dr. Bonte was one of the true pioneers in nuclear medicine, helping to establish the American Board of Nuclear Medicine after having made seminal contributions to the field. I was fortunate to be able to chat in depth with Fred about the history of the department on numerous occasions and came to know a brilliant, witty and compelling 'father' of the Department of Radiology, with a lifelong passion for teaching and discovery. Our memories of him will forever be an inspiration,” said Dr. Neil M. Rofsky, Chairman of Radiology, who holds the Effie and Wofford Cain Distinguished Chair in Diagnostic Imaging.
Dr. Bonte discovered a nuclear scanning technique that allowed the viewing and imaging of a heart attack, which played an important role in the growing field of nuclear medicine. Along with Dr. Robert Parkey, who succeeded Dr. Bonte as Chair of Radiology, he was instrumental in developing the technique, called technetium-99m stannous pyrophosphate imaging, to detect acute myocardial infarction, used worldwide to diagnose, localize, and determine the size of heart attacks.
His distinguished career – spanning more than seven decades – furthered the clinical use of numerous radiologic tools and techniques, including single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) to identify a characteristic sign of Alzheimer’s disease and distinguish it from a group of illnesses known as frontotemporal diseases, and a study that was the first to pinpoint damage inside the brains of veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome. In 1971, he helped establish the American Board of Nuclear Medicine, serving as the organization's chair and president from 1977 to 1980.
“Dr. Bonte pioneered the use of nuclear scanning for research on the UT Southwestern campus and made possible the application of SPECT brain scanning to a wide array of research problems,” said Dr. Robert Haley, Chief of Epidemiology, Professor of Internal Medicine who holds the U.S. Armed Forces Veterans Distinguished Chair for Medical Research, Honoring Robert Haley, M.D., and America's Gulf War Veterans. “Our 20-year collaboration led to a unique set of SPECT experiments that first pointed to dysfunction of muscarinic-2 receptors as the basic damage from nerve gas in veterans with Gulf War illness, presently our leading theory.”
Prior to his appointment as the first Chairman of Radiology at UT Southwestern in 1956, radiology services were provided as part of Surgery. During his 17-year tenure as chair, Radiology grew from one to 23 faculty members, graduate degree-conferring programs in radiological physics and radiation biology were established, as was one of the nation's first academic nuclear medicine laboratories. Since 1980, he had served as Director of UTSW’s Nuclear Medicine Center, which pioneered the method of placing nuclear test data on magnetic tape, and took a leading role in developing a series of widely copied nuclear medical tests for detecting heart disease.
He also served as director of radiology at Parkland Memorial Hospital and chief of radiology service at Children's Medical Center, the Veterans Administration Hospital of Dallas, and Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas for more than 15 years. He also was a Senior Investigator with the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at UT Southwestern, and Adjunct Professor of Behavioral Science at UT Dallas.
As Dean of UT Southwestern Medical School from July 1973 to August 1980, Dr. Bonte was active in national health policy issues involving changes in health care services, reimbursements for teaching hospitals, and improving medical care at UT Southwestern's teaching hospitals and clinics. He served as president of the Southwestern Chapter of the Society of Nuclear Medicine, the Texas Radiological Society, the Dallas County Medical Society, and served 23 years in the Texas Medical Association House of Delegates, and represented the Society of Nuclear Medicine as its American Medical Association delegate for many years.
Robert and Lola Sanford, who were major contributors to the Department of Radiology, created the Dr. Fred Bonte Professorship in Radiology in his honor in 2000. He was recipient of the Dr. Jack Krohmer Professorship in Radiation Physics chair and the Effie and Wofford Cain Distinguished Chair in Diagnostic Imaging, along with the Roentgen Centennial Medal, and De Hevesy Award by the Society of Nuclear Medicine, and the President’s Award of the American College of Nuclear Physicians.
Initially, he hadn’t intended to become a radiologist. But after enlisting in the Army during World War II and graduating from Western's Reserve School of Medicine in 1945, he received his commission as a first lieutenant.
"My first day I reported in uniform, as required, and was invited to the executive office of the hospital," Dr. Bonte said. "A colonel confirmed my name was Bonte and matched the paperwork on his desk. He then said, 'You are assigned to the department of radiology.' We shook hands and I never had the opportunity to speak with him again."
Dr. Bonte attended the Army School of Roentgenology at Fort Sam Houston, served as captain and chief of X-ray at the U.S. Army Air Corps and Colorado's Lowry Air Force Base, and completed fellowship training in nuclear medicine in the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's Atomic Energy Research Project, directed by former Manhattan Project scientist Dr. Hymer L. Friedell. Prior to coming to UT Southwestern as Chair, he was a resident, faculty member, and chief of radiation therapy and nuclear medicine at Western Reserve.
Reposted from utsouthwestern.edu