Dr Jud Gurney, a widely renowned thoracic radiologist and Past-President of the Society of Thoracic Radiology, died on March 18, 2010, in Omaha, Nebraska, after a year-long battle with cancer. Jud was born on September 7, 1954, in Hastings, Nebraska. At the time of his death, he was the Charles A. Dobry Professor of Diagnostic Radiology and a Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Nebraska.
Dr Gurney completed his undergraduate education, medical school, and post-graduate medical training at the University of Nebraska. He then served as the Scanlon Fellow in thoracic imaging at the Medical College of Wisconsin under the mentorship of Dr Lawrence Goodman. Most of Jud's subsequent professional career was spent at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, with brief periods at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
He was the author of sixty peer-reviewed articles in the radiology literature and the author or co-author of ten textbooks. He produced numerous educational exhibits and served on the editorial board of the journal Radiology and the Journal of Thoracic Imaging (JTI). Jud was the second individual to serve as the Melvin M. Figley Fellow in Radiology Journalism in conjunction with the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR).
Jud was cited as one of the most prolific reviewers for the journal Radiology and also reviewed for AJR, Radiographics, Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Thoracic Imaging, Thorax, Clinical Science, and European Radiology. He also served as series editor for a previous Journal of Thoracic Imaging series regarding computers in thoracic radiology.
His numerous academic pursuits included serving as Director of the Radiology Residency Program of the University of Nebraska Medical Center from 2005 to 2007, oral board examiner for the American Board of Radiology, and President of the state chapter and active member of the national organization of the American College of Radiology. Jud served the Society of Thoracic Radiology successively as a member of several committees, Chairman of the Awards and Rules Committees, Treasurer, and then President in 2007. During his career, he served as a visiting professor at 54 institutions, both domestic and international.
Throughout his career, Dr Gurney received numerous honors, including teaching awards, research and scholarship awards. All of these were accepted with his characteristic humility. Most recently, he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Nebraska Radiological Society, its highest honor. At the awards ceremony, two brief videographic presentations portrayed Jud's earliest years (Part One) and his professional years (Part Two); both were professionally produced and are available on YouTube. One of the most memorable images in the first video is from Jud's childhood, showing him as a young boy, bent forward and gaping in open-mouthed wonder and delight at a bright red, pedal-powered fire truck under the Christmas tree.
Jud brought that same sense of wonder and happiness to his work and academic activities. His intellectual curiosity often took him deep into the medical literature—savoring the newest and oldest papers alike—often pursuing the anatomic and physiologic features of chest disease that correlate with thoracic imaging.
Some of his most popular lectures had titles such as “Smoking: What Happens to the Puff” (a smoke particle's journey through the airways) and “The ABC's of Trauma” (a clever, mnemonic-based lecture that was one of his most popular). These talks and others are still available as of this writing on Jud's web site (www.chestx-ray.com) where additional lectures, tutorials, case conferences, book reviews, and other links have made the site a popular destination for anyone wishing to learn about thoracic imaging.
His lecturing skills quickly took Jud from the local and regional scene to the national and international stage. His presentations were known for their accuracy and intelligent organization and were leavened by his dry, Midwestern wit and his inherent generosity.
A proud son of the Midwest, Jud embodied and cherished the solid qualities associated with that background, always acting with humility and kindness toward others. He taught with a fervor and generosity that was admirable, and with a calm and assured enthusiasm that was contagious.
In his personal life, Jud was an avid reader and enthusiastic sport fisherman. His friend, Chris Meyer, a professional colleague and fishing buddy, recalls:
Jud's inquisitive nature made him the model of a life-long learner. While working together on a pneumoconiosis research project, Jud introduced the rest of the team to the two books he had already read on Libby, Montana, and the documentary he had downloaded to his omnipresent computer. Being both a B reader and an accomplished light tackle and fly fisherman would prove to be a fortuitous combination; work occasionally brought us to some great fishing spots. Whether floating the Kootenai river fly fishing for trout, or throwing shrimp at unsuspecting redfish in the everglades backcountry of Flamingo, Florida, Jud's keen powers of observation made him just as accomplished at spotting fish as reading films. He did both with that quick wit and ever present grin that made it clear he was enjoying the moment.
Jud's love of reading began in a childhood spent on the rural plains of Nebraska, in an area that was also home to the famed American author Willa Cather (1873-1947). Cather was also a graduate of the University of Nebraska, and Jud often spoke in admiration of her work and its depiction of life on the Midwestern plains.
Jud is survived by his wife, Mary A. Gurney, and his children Ian and Antonia, the latter named after the lead character in the famed eponymous novel by Willa Cather, “My Antonia.”
Jud was most revered as an educator who enthusiastically shared his knowledge with generations of young people in training.
“I wish my legacy to be that I was a good teacher…that I did my best. My time with the residents has been the most rewarding thing in my career.”
(Jud Gurney, Recorded Christmas 2009)
Gerald F. Abbott, MD
Department of Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA