Robert W. Parkey, M.D., Professor of Radiology, whose scientific discoveries helped develop nuclear scanning techniques to diagnose, localize, and measure acute heart attacks noninvasively, has died. He was 84.

Article and images courtesy of Center Times

Robert W. Parkey served as the longest-acting Chair of Radiology at UT Southwestern – from 1977 until his retirement in 2010 – and made valuable contributions to nuclear scanning techniques used all over the world. He also was instrumental in developing dynamic blood pool imaging – a technique involving injection of a chemical compound that tagged red blood cells as they circulated throughout the bloodstream – which offered a less invasive, safer, and more accurate imaging option, especially for those who recently had heart attacks.

“Dr. Parkey had a profound impact across all missions of UT Southwestern. His legacy will be valued for many years to come,” said W. P. Andrew Lee, M.D., Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost, and Dean of UT Southwestern Medical School.

Robert W. Parkey stands next to a piece of artwork in his likeness.
Radiology professor, Neil Rofsky with Dr. Robert W. Parkey at the reception honoring Parkey’s 33 years as chairman of radiology. ND14 dining room

Neil Rofsky, M.D., M.H.A, former Chair of Radiology, said receiving the baton from Dr. Parkey to lead the Department was an honor.

“I respected his knowledge and his management style,” Dr. Rofsky said of his predecessor. “The field of cardiac nuclear medicine and the subsequent implications for patient management were transformed by his meticulous, innovative, and collaborative approach.”

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in physics from UT Austin, Dr. Parkey pursued his medical degree at UT Southwestern. He completed his residency in diagnostic radiology at Parkland Memorial Hospital and a fellowship in radiological data processing at the University of Missouri, sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Dr. Parkey returned to UT Southwestern in 1970 and became Chief of Nuclear Medicine shortly after.

In 1971, the prestigious National Research Council named him a James Picker Foundation Scholar in Radiology Research for his work investigating small computer processing of scintigram data used for diagnostic purposes.

In 1977, Dr. Parkey was appointed Chair of Radiology. Under his leadership, the Department grew in size through key recruitments and enhanced its technical capacity, including establishing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) clinical unit, allowing UT Southwestern to be one of the early academic sites to engage in related research and clinical care. Throughout his 33-year tenure as Chair, Dr. Parkey embraced the rapid development of medical imaging and contributed to the development of the Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Facility, the Mary Nell and Ralph B. Rogers Magnetic Resonance Imaging Center, Zale Lipshy Pavilion – William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital, and the Bill and Rita Clements Advanced Medical Imaging Building.

Diane Twickler, M.D., Professor of Radiology and Obstetrics and Gynecology, called Dr. Parkey an inspirational innovator and leader.

He brought the first MRI west of the Mississippi River and to UT Southwestern 40 years ago. This allowed medical students like me to experience the wonders of imaging and choose the exciting field of radiology. His nuclear medicine research was groundbreaking, and his enthusiasm for sharing his passion of imaging among students and trainees was endless. His unconditional support, trust, and loyalty of his fellow faculty were unwavering. Bob Parkey was a great person. He never met a stranger. He was kind, thoughtful, and really funny. His trademark look of carrying an unlit cigar on the side of his mouth and his affable smile will live in our memories.

Dr. Diane Twickler, Professor of Radiology and Obstetrics and Gynecology, UT Southwestern

A committed educator who considered the many students and residents he trained through the years among his greatest accomplishments, Dr. Parkey received top teaching honors from UT Southwestern students several times. He was appointed the Effie and Wofford Cain Distinguished Chair in Diagnostic Imaging in 1994. In 2007, he was honored by Parkland with its Hero of Our Heritage Award. He also was recognized with the Lifetime Service Award from the American Board of Radiology (2010) and the Gold Medal from the Texas Radiological Society (2012).

In 2016, the Department of Radiology established the Robert W. Parkey, M.D. Distinguished Professorship in Radiology in his honor. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to UTSW Donate Now. When selecting designation, select “Other,” and under Tribute Selection, select “In memory of” and comment “Dr. Robert Parkey.” You will receive an email confirmation upon checkout and an official tax receipt in the mail in five to seven days.

Contributions can also be sent directly to UT Southwestern Medical Center, P.O. Box 910888, Dallas, TX 75391-0888 in memory of Robert W. Parkey.

Dr. Lee holds the Atticus James Gill, M.D. Chair in Medical Science.

Dr. Twickler holds the Dr. Fred Bonte Professorship in Radiology.