Dr. Charles Mistretta receives international medical physics award for lifetime contributions

Posted on April 2013

Dr. Charles Mistretta, UW’s current J.R. Cameron Professor of Medical Physics and Radiology, was recently selected as one of the International Congress on Medical Physics’ (ICMP) 50 medical physicists with the most impact on the field in the past 50 years. This prestigious honor is bestowed on an elite group of medical physicists across the globe, and the Department of Radiology is delighted to congratulate Dr. Mistretta on this achievement.

Mistretta received his doctorate from Harvard University in high energy physics in 1968, and began his time at Wisconsin 3 years later—where he would stay to make lasting contributions in the field for 42 years.

During his career at the UW, Mistretta has accumulated more than 120 presentations and visiting professorships to his credit. Aside from his prolific academic focus, Mistretta received the Laufman-Greatbatch Prize in 1983 from the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation for developing digital subtraction angiography. In 1998, he garnered the J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine for ‘distinguished lifetime achievement’ and ‘outstanding contributions to the advances in the use of medical imaging in diagnosing and treating human diseases.’

Mistretta has also found time to give back, graduating 23 medical imaging doctoral students, many of whom have gone on to do groundbreaking work in spiral computed tomography (Kalender), magnetic resonance fluoroscopy (Riederer), thermoacoustic computed tomography (Kruger) and dual modality computed tomography/single photon emission computer tomography (Hasegawa). Not only has Mistretta showed a strong commitment to education, but he has also passed on his technological innovation through invention, and has obtained 18 U.S. patents and several international patents.
Mistretta has irrevocably changed the fields of radiology and medical physics and is wholly deserving of the ICMP’s award for his life’s work. Yet as grateful as UW’s Department of Radiology is to Mistretta for his years of service, Mistretta is equally grateful to the department.
“I really believe that this recent honor is one that should go to these departments [Radiology and Medical Physics] rather than me,” Mistretta said. “Almost anyone situated in the supportive environment that these departments have provided and continue to provide would have accomplished great things.”

Mistretta attributed a part of his success to his “outstanding colleagues” in the Department of Radiology, including UW trailblazers Dr. John Juhl and Dr. John Cameron and peers Dr. Charles Strother and the Department of Radiology Chair Dr. Tom Grist. “[They] have kept me from building square wheels,” Mistretta said.

Mistretta also noted that the honor from the ICMP has caused him to reflect on both his career and life in general. “It brings to mind a principle that I often relate to my grandchildren regarding the importance of choosing a profession you really enjoy and one that contributes to making the world a better place,” he said. “As you get older and look back, [it is] significant to know you did your best and that what you did made a difference.”