Tribute to Dr. Luther Brady

By Dennis Galinsky, MD, FACR, FACRO
Paul Schilling, MD, FACRO
Joanne Dragun, MD, FACRO

Dr. Luther W. Brady passed away Friday, July 13, 2018. He was the founding President of the American College of Radiation Oncology and one of the giants in the field, on equal footing with the likes of Juan del Regato and Gilbert Fletcher.

Dr. Brady was born in North Carolina and received his undergraduate and medical degrees from George Washington University in Washington, DC. He received his training in Radiology, Radiation Oncology and Nuclear Medicine at the US Naval Hospital in Bethesda and in Philadelphia at Jefferson Medical College and the University of Pennsylvania. His career of teaching and clinical work spanned more than 50 years at Hahnemann University School of Medicine and continued at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. He served as department chair from 1970 until he stepped down in 1996.

Dr. Brady’s contributions as an educator and clinician made him an internationally recognized leader in the field of Oncology. He was an innovator and especially known for the establishment of modern radiation oncology treatments of eye tumors, cervical cancer, iodine and ruthenium eye plaque brachytherapy, moulage techniques, early use of monoclonal antibodies with and without radiation in conjunction with the Wistar institute and interstitial brain implants. He also pioneered treatment of pediatric patients without the use of systemic anesthesia.  In his 80s, he started one of the nation’s first Cyber-knife Radiosurgery programs. He has over 600 publications and credits, was editor of the Encyclopedia of Radiation Oncology, was co-editor with Dr. Carlos Perez of Principles and Practice of Radiation Oncology and served for two decades as the editor of the American Journal of Clinical Oncology.

 Dr. Brady trained more than 120 residents during half a century of mentorship. He was famous for sending improperly dressed residents home to return properly attired.  He expected their absolute best effort before allowing them to move on with their training. Each resident was given what he called a “green banana”, which was a research project that he had selected. The resident had to ripen, peel and bring it to fruition with a paper published in a peer review journal. He required the residents to understand the medical and surgical oncology literature better than the specialists. Only then could they teach medical and surgical oncologists their findings! Dr. Brady taught residents all aspects of radiation treatment including: brain, endobronchial, chest wall, tongue base and tonsil implants, moulage, eye plaque brachytherapy and all aspects of radiopharmaceutical treatments.  He taught his residents not to cede follow up of patients to any other specialist and that early detection of second malignancies was their job. He also insisted that end of life care should be handled by a radiation oncologist and taught his residents many comfort and palliative techniques that are the art of Oncology.

His residents knew they were in the presence of greatness, yet Dr. Brady was kind, gracious, generous and devoted to each of them. He demanded excellence because he knew no other way. Residents from around the world rotated through the Department and there were visits from renowned researchers, professors and chairman from around the country. As their Chairman, Dr. Brady also eagerly introduced his residents to the arts and often provided concert experiences and introductions to renowned artists in Philadelphia. He took personal responsibility for their growth and success and students were frequent guests to his home, further providing them with gracious and generous support. Dr. Brady’s long and illustrious career continued to enhance his former residents’ lives for many years. He delighted in their accomplishments, often attending ribbon cuttings, lecturing and promoting their careers with his ongoing presence. When asked, he was always there for them.

Throughout his lifetime, Dr. Brady received an unprecedented number of accolades and awards from his colleagues. He received 24 medals recognizing his achievements and contributions to medicine, among which were the American Medical Association Distinguished Service Award; and Gold Medals from the American College of Radiation Oncology, the Radiological Society of North America, the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, the American College of Radiology and the American Radium Society. In addition, he earned honorary fellowships and medals from societies throughout the world.

Dr. Brady served his profession as a Fellow of the American College of Radiation Oncology, a Fellow of the American College of Radiology and Chair of the Commission on Radiation Oncology. Additionally, he was Chair of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) and from 1991 to 1993, he served as the appointed chair of the radiation oncology committee for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

In addition to his academic and medical accomplishments, Dr. Brady’s involvement with the arts was equally impressive. He was an avid art collector and worked on behalf of the Philadelphia Museum of Art serving as Chair of its Executive Committee and member of its Board of Trustees. He served on the Board of Directors of the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the Opera Company of New Mexico, the Santa Fe Opera Company, the Settlement Music School and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Colgate University conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts in May 1998.

Dr. Brady’s accomplishments in medicine and the arts are well documented but he was also an avid skier well into his 80s and was only sidelined when his knees gave out!

Dr. Brady was the primary driving force in the formation of The American College of Radiation Oncology. Many recognized that radiation oncology was not being adequately represented in the economic and political spheres. Several of us shared our concerns with Dr. Brady who understood that if our specialty was to remain viable and strong, we needed a separate organization to represent our interests. This is what distinguished him from other well-known Radiation Oncologists. He was passionate about the continued growth of Radiation Oncology from the very seminal level and felt that when he was honored, the entire profession was as well. In fact, Dr. Brady knew that the name the American College of Radiation Oncology had been registered by another organization in Delaware and that the registration was about to expire. He researched the exact date of expiration and drove to Delaware early in the morning and waited in line at the government office there before it opened for the day, so he could register the name and officially form the College.

Early on when we faced challenges from Medicare, Dr. Brady called upon the appropriate individuals to meet in Baltimore to resolve the issues. Despite opposition from sister radiologic organizations, he stood strong and was an inspiration to us all. He invited interested radiation oncologists from the private and academic sectors, representing diverse geographic areas, to the organizational meeting at the JW Marriott in Washington, DC in 1989. Initially, the College was run out of Dr. Brady’s office at Hahnemann until a separate management office was established. Early on, Dr. Brady, along with Dr. Howard Wong, recognized the importance of having the American College of Radiation Oncology become a Specialty Society member of the American Medical Association. Our presence there as a strong voice for our specialty is essential and has continued uninterrupted. Dr. Brady also recognized the importance of a mechanism for practice accreditation and pioneered and promoted the ACRO Practice Accreditation program in the early 1990s.

Dr. Brady would often say, “We are first and foremost physicians who practice Oncology through our tools in therapeutic radiation.” All that he did to support and promote our medical specialty and Oncology was true to this creed.

Dr. Brady will be remembered by all who knew him and worked with him, including his patients, as an incomparable and wise mentor and friend with a keen sense of what was truly important in this world. He remembered the names and details of the lives of the families of his friends and colleagues and never failed to take the time to inquire about their well-being. Dr. Brady had a knack for making others feel valued.

We can best honor this amazing physician by continuing his legacy of excellence in our specialty, caring for and about our patients and guiding others in the field. His dedication to his patients, colleagues and friends was obvious and will serve as a guiding light for us all.

Luther, you will truly be missed.