Wallace T. Miller Sr., radiologist

Wallace T. Miller
Wallace T. Miller
Posted: June 28, 2013

Wallace T. Miller Sr., 81, of East Falls, who rose from poverty in Appalachia to become one of the most accomplished radiologists of his generation, died Sunday, June 23, at his home of metastatic lymphoma.

Dr. Miller was known as an outstanding clinical radiologist and charismatic teacher during the half-century he served on the staff of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

He took top honors in his field, including the 1997 Gold Medal Award from the Radiological Society of North America, and won nearly every accolade possible for his work at Penn's medical school.

He was the first recipient of the I.S. Ravdin Award, which recognizes the outstanding clinician at HUP.

Two years ago, 50 former residents met at the 37th annual Pendergrass Symposium in Philadelphia to thank him for years of exemplary mentoring.

His former trainees, now eminent physicians in their own right, said Dr. Miller had an almost magical ability to construe arcane diagnoses from minute abnormalities on film, long before anyone else could.

"Dr. Miller's ability to extract clinical information from radiographic images was extraordinary," said Warren B. Gefter, chief of chest radiology at HUP. "He was a physician's physician."

"So many times, I thought of myself as a mere messenger between the 'real doctor' behind the curtain and my patients," said John Hansen-Flaschen, chief of pulmonary medicine at HUP, another former trainee.

Born in Everett, Pa., Dr. Miller was one of three sons of a widowed mother, Rose Heit Miller. She supported the family by working as a waitress at a Howard Johnson's restaurant while he finished Everett High School.

Dr. Miller graduated in three years with top honors from Washington and Jefferson College in 1952. He attended Jefferson Medical College and did a year's internship at City Hospital in Akron, Ohio. In 1957, he became a radiological resident at HUP.

Finishing his residency in 1960, he was a member of the HUP staff for a year before serving a two-year hitch in the Navy. He was stationed at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va.

In 1962, Dr. Miller returned to HUP, where he practiced until retiring in 2012. He held various positions in radiology, including department vice chairman and chief of the chest division. In 1972, he became a professor of radiology in the School of Medicine.

He was a member of various medical societies and national committees, as well as a prolific writer. He edited Seminars in Radiology, authored three medical textbooks, and wrote 20 chapters for textbooks. His 130 published papers include several that are considered seminal works in diagnostic radiology.

His former residents established a scholarship in his name at Penn, and a chair of radiology was created in his name at the Penn hospital.

In his spare time, Dr. Miller was a football official, a hobby he acquired in the Navy and pursued for many years. He officiated at Catholic High School League games in Philadelphia and college games in the area.

His son described Dr. Miller as a great storyteller who loved to recall his roots in Appalachia. "He grew up in a very poor area, but never considered himself underprivileged," his son said.

Surviving, besides his son, are his wife of 56 years, the former Betty Depo; another son, Wally Jr.; a daughter, Kimberly Fogarty; 10 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

A memorial service is at 10 a.m. Friday, June 28, at St. Bridget Roman Catholic Church, 3667 Midvale Ave. A visitation starts at 9 a.m. Burial is private.

Donations may be made to the Wallace T. Miller Sr. Scholarship Fund at the University of Pennsylvania via http://alumni.med.upenn.edu/annualgiving.php.

Contact Bonnie L. Cook

at 610-313-8102 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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