From the Archives: Another Look at “Crazy Charlie”

Charles DotterCharles T. Dotter, MD (1920-1985) is known as the father of interventional radiology. As a young faculty member at Cornell Medical School, he published several articles on angiocardiography, his main area of interest. At the age of 32, he was recruited as chair of the Department of Radiology at University of Oregon Medical School (precursor to OHSU). He served in this position from 1952-1985. While at UOMS, he developed the new field of interventional radiology, publishing more than 300 papers on the subject. Among his many advances in radiology and medical technology, transluminal angioplasty stands out as his landmark contribution. He and his trainee Dr. Melvin P. Judkins first described this technique in a 1964 article in Circulation.

Dr. Dotter was known as a flamboyant personality and an aggressive innovator. Some of his colleagues thought his work was daring to the point of being dangerous. His penchant for sensational publicity didn't help matters, and he earned the nickname "Crazy Charlie." Dr. Dotter himself never avoided controversy, and felt that his work was simply too far ahead of its time to be fully understood.

This photograph from around 1955 shows a quieter view of health professionals at work. At left, technician Kay Smith holds up an x-ray of a patient with a congenital heart condition. With cardiologist Dr. Herbert Griswold (right), Dr. Dotter examines the image to make a diagnosis.

Dr. Dotter's reputation for daring and flamboyance didn't overshadow his achievements: His advances introduced a new era of minimally-invasive diagnosis and treatment. His pioneering work was recognized with numerous national awards, and a nomination for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1978. Closer to home, OHSU's Dotter Interventional Institute was founded in his honor in 1990.


Pictured: Dr. Charles Dotter (middle), Dr. Herbert Griswold and Kay Smith

Contributed by Maija Anderson, archivist, OHSU Historical Collections & Archives