Walter J. Rogers, Jr.
Walter J. Rogers Jr. PhD, Associate Professor of Radiology and Medicine at the University of Virginia passed away in 2006 of chronic lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 53. He is survived by his wife Peggy, son Andrew, daughter Brittany, and a legion of friends, colleagues, and trainees who immensely enjoyed working with him due to his ease of manner, generosity of spirit, and collaborative nature.
Walt was truly a pioneer in cardiovascular magnetic resonance. He was initially trained as a radiation physicist at Johns Hopkins and worked there in the laboratory of Lewis Becker MD for several years in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Under the guidance of Myron L. Weisfeldt MD, then chief of Cardiology at Hopkins, Walt moved into the emerging field of CMR, working with Edward Shapiro MD at the then Francis Scott Key Medical Center, now Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Walt was a key contributor to the fundamental concepts and an author on the original paper with Elias Zerhouni MD describing the novel technique of myocardial tissue tagging that has since been adapted and applied to many varied cardiac conditions. He and Dr. Shapiro studied basic myocardial mechanics with CMR tagging, noninvasively defining normal myocardial rotation and long-axis shortening and the relation of myocardial strain to fiber orientation. They also performed the original validation of LV mass measurements by CMR in acute infarction.
Walt moved to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh in 1993 where he teamed with Christopher Kramer M.D.and Nathaniel Reichek M.D. for several years, continuing his work in applying CMR tagging and contrast-enhanced techniques to animal models and patients with acute myocardial infarction. His 1999 Circulation paper demonstrated the important finding of the lack of recovery of function after acute MI in humans in regions with hypoenhancement early after gadolinium infusion, regions of microvascular obstruction. Drs. Rogers and Kramer demonstrated the utility of CMR tagging in characterizing changes in regional function early and late after acute MI and the response to low-dose dobutamine and were among the first to safely image patients who had recently been stented for acute MI.
Walt went on to expand his interests into the bourgeoning field of vascular biology and garnered a PhD during this time. Simultaneously he began to use intravascular CMR catheters with receiver coils to image atherosclerotic plaque ex vivo and then in vivo, a difficult task that Walt took on with his usual aplomb and positive attitude, the same attitude he would later apply to his illness.
In 2002, Walt joined the growing CMR group at the University of Virginia and blended in quickly as always. He continued his work in intravascular and interventional CMR, working on novel devices and strategies for imaging with them, collaborating skillfully with cardiologists, radiologists, engineers, and industrial colleagues. He also began to apply his knowledge of vascular biology to molecular CMR, collaborating with chemists to harness iron oxide particles to antibodies that would recognize inflamed endothelium. Until a month before his untimely death, he was revising an NIH R01 on this very topic for submission.
Soon after his arrival at UVA he was recognized for his leadership skills and was tapped to be Vice Chair of Research for the Department of Radiology. As noted by Michael Dake MD, chair of Radiology, Walt was known as “a generous and considerate individual.... a truly collaborative colleague, who happily applauded the success of fellow faculty with genuine admiration; a man whose easy enthusiasm for a variety of subjects and positive attitude provided unflinching support for co-workers that helped drive their projects to success”.
Walt was a terrific husband and father. A lover of the outdoors and of college sports, Walt took to Charlottesville very quickly. He found himself rooting hard for UVA when they played Johns Hopkins in his favorite spectator sport, lacrosse. He and his son Andrew would make an annual trek to the NCAA lacrosse championships, regardless of the schools involved. An avid biker, he also enjoyed tennis and sailing and as a native of Erie, PA, he was a huge Pittsburgh Penguins and Steelers fan throughout good times and bad. He enjoyed turning golf into exercise and one of the last of many memorable golf outings was spent spraying balls all over the Blue Monster at the SCMR Doral Golf Classic after the 2006 SCMR Annual Meeting in Miami. Walt was a marvelous colleague and an even better friend and he is sorely missed throughout the CMR community.