James E. McDonald, M.D., Invested in Ernest J. Ferris, M.D. Chair in Diagnostic Radiology

By Benjamin Waldrum

McDonald, who joined UAMS in 2010, was appointed department chair in November 2016. An endowed chair is among the highest academic honors a university can bestow on a faculty member and is established with gifts of at least $1 million, which are invested and the proceeds used to support the educational, research and clinical activities of the chair holder. Those named to a chair are among the most highly regarded scientists, physicians and professors in their fields.

“I congratulate Dr. McDonald for the many accomplishments that have merited this honor,” said UAMS Interim Chancellor Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D. “From one Southerner to another, the best way to say this is, we appreciate you. We appreciate your leadership at UAMS of our clinical, academic and research activities that support our overall mission, and we appreciate everyone who has helped make this chair a reality.”

The chair is named in honor of Ferris, who chaired the Department of Radiology for 31 years, helping bring comprehensive subspecialty training and highly specialized radiological care to Arkansas. He trained more than 350 fellows and residents at UAMS, six of whom have gone on to become department chairs at various medical schools. Ferris ultimately expanded the department to include 50 radiologists with diverse subspecialties before he stepped down as chair in 2008.

Ferris, who attended Boston University School of Medicine, held faculty positions at Harvard University and Tufts University, and served as chief of radiology at Boston University Medical Center for eight years before being recruited to UAMS in 1977.

Well-known nationally and internationally for his contributions to the field of radiology, Ferris received the American Board of Radiology’s Distinguished Service Award in 2000 and was presented with the Radiological Society of North America’s highest honor, the Gold Medal, in 2001. At UAMS, he received the Caduceus Club’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 1996 and the Dean’s Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award in 2007. College of Medicine students recognized him four times with the Red Sash Award.

The ceremony, held in the Diner Learning Center at UAMS’ main Little Rock campus, served as a celebration of the department, with radiology staff, technologists, residents, alumni and faculty members participating. Ferris attended, along with Phillip Kenney, M.D., who served as department chair from 2008-2012. With McDonald, the three men represent more than 40 years of department history.

“Jim is an incredibly important leader on this campus, and hence in this state,” said Richard Turnage, M.D., senior vice chancellor for clinical programs and chief executive officer of UAMS Medical Center. “The department has thrived under his leadership, and we look forward to even greater success for the department and the university. This important honor is incredibly well-deserved, not just because of what you’ve accomplished, but because of the promise for the future.”

McDonald was presented with a commemorative medallion by Gardner and Christopher Westfall, M.D., interim dean of the College of Medicine.

“It goes without saying that receiving the Ernest J. Ferris Chair in Radiology is the highest honor of what’s now a pretty long career, and I’ll be forever grateful,” McDonald said. “Our more than 100 years of history in radiology at UAMS and the contributions of our founders, faculty, residents and alumni constitute a powerful legacy. It’s our privilege now to continue to build on those relationships that have made us so strong as we move into our second century.”

McDonald recognized nearly every person in the room with thanks, from department heads and faculty to technologists, staff and residents. He also thanked his wife, Donna, and his family for their support.

“The Ferris chair is primarily for our residents and their education, and the strengthening of the faculty who have the sacred responsibility to help our residents become radiologists,” McDonald said.

McDonald received his medical degree summa cum laude from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine and completed an internship in surgery and pathology at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He completed his residency in diagnostic radiology at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University in St. Louis, serving as co-chief resident in his final year, and continued his training with a fellowship in nuclear medicine at UAMS and Mallinckrodt.

He joined the College of Medicine full time as an assistant professor and director of the Division of Nuclear Medicine in 2010, and has served as director of the Nuclear Medicine Residency Program since 2013. He served as interim co-vice chair of the department from 2012 to 2014 and was promoted to interim chair in May 2014. He was promoted to associate professor in July 2016 and was named chair in November 2016.

McDonald was a partner in Radiology Associates P.A. in Little Rock from 1983 to 2010, where he served on its governing board, including a term as chair. He was active on the medical staff at St. Vincent Infirmary, now CHI St. Vincent, where he was chief of nuclear medicine from 2003 to 2010 and led a fundraising campaign for nursing education. At Southwest Regional Medical Center, his leadership posts included chief of the Department of Radiology, chief of staff, and chair of the advisory board. He also served as an adjunct clinical assistant professor in the UAMS Department of Radiology from 2003 to 2006.

In addition to leading the Department of Radiology, McDonald has championed implementing imaging decision support algorithms into the Epic electronic medical records system at UAMS and led an effort to ensure appropriate use of mobile chest radiography. He was named both director and medical director of the Imaging Service Line in 2015. Also director of Nuclear Medicine and PET and an expert on the molecular imaging of multiple myeloma, McDonald is a consultant to the UAMS Myeloma Institute. He assists in the integration of quantitative imaging and radiomics into research initiatives for the Department of Biomedical Informatics and chairs the Radiation Safety Committee.

McDonald was named a Fellow of the American College of Radiology in 2016.

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and eight institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute, Institute for Digital Health & Innovation and the Institute for Community Health Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.