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Dr. Harker Rhodes | American College of Veterinary Radiology Dr. Harker Rhodes – American College of Veterinary Radiology

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Dr. Harker Rhodes (L) receives the ACVR Distinguished Service Award at the 1999 ACVR Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL. from ACVR President, Dr. David Biller (R).

Dr. Rhodes has made varied and important contributions to the development of veterinary radiology in the United States. Specifically, he was instrumental in the formation of the American Board of Veterinary Radiology (now the ACVR), and the Journal of the American Veterinary Radiology Society (now Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound).

In 1955 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, W. Harker Rhodes began radiology training in the Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to veterinary school he had graduated from New York University and served in the Navy Hospital Corps. After completing a Masters of Science Degree in Radiology and as the radiologist on the veterinary school faculty at Penn, he felt the need for an organization limited to veterinarians in the specialty of veterinary radiology.

Dr. Rhodes’ contributions to the development of the American Board of Veterinary Radiology were detailed in a paper on the development of veterinary radiology in North America written by Dr. Ed Gillette.

In February 1955, Rhodes addressed a letter to the deans of veterinary schools to obtain information concerning the status of radiology and to obtain information basic to the design of an “ideal” veterinary radiology department. The response to this inquiry prompted him to write W.D. Carlson stating that “liaison among the persons responsible for the study, teaching and practice of radiology in the veterinary medical teaching institutions in the United States and Canada is very unsatisfactory. I find this fact agreed upon by all such veterinary radiologists with whom I have had contact.” Rhodes proposed a meeting of those teaching radiology to discuss matters of mutual interest. This meeting was held November 18-19, 1957. In the minutes of that meeting is the statement, “it should be brought out that the interest and problems of veterinary radiology were discussed as a group problem by specialists in radiology for the first time in the history of veterinary radiology.” At that meeting the organization Educators in Veterinary Radiologic Science (E.V.R.S.) was formed. Rhodes was the first president of the E.V.R.S.

In 1960, the E.V.R.S. began selection of the initial members of the proposed American Board of Veterinary Radiology (A.B.V.R.). Those selected were Drs. W.H. Rhodes, W.D. Carlson, and Gary Schnelle. At the fifth E.V.R.S. meeting in Chicago, November 25, 1961, concern was expressed about the organizing body of the A.B.V.R. In such a group of strong personalities egos were bound to be bruised and it was to their great credit that they were able to accomplish the first step in the formation of the Board.

In 1962, Drs. William Banks, William Carlson, Mack Emmerson, W. Harker Rhodes and Gerry Schnelle were given temporary recognition as an organizing committee for the American Board of Veterinary Radiology by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Rhodes served as Chairman and Emmerson as secretary of that committee. Dr. Rhodes also participated as an examiner for the first examination that was given in 1965 to six people. Final approval for the formation of the specialty board in veterinary radiology was granted by the American Veterinary Medical Association in 1966. The A.B.V.R. was re-named the American College of Veterinary Radiology on November 30, 1969.

Dr. Rhodes’ other major contribution to the specialty of veterinary radiology was his input into initiation of an official radiology journal. This input was detailed in an Editorial that Dr. Thrall wrote in Veterinary Radiology Journal in 1981.

The “radiology journal” had its inception in 1958 as a mimeographed, non-illustrated publication consisting of condensed versions of papers presented at American Veterinary Radiology Society (AVRS) meetings held that year in Philadelphia, PA and Elkhart, IN. Over the next three years, the journal evolved into a conventionally printed and illustrated publication. Papers presented at various AVRS meetings formed the basis of its contents. These early efforts were largely the result of Drs. J.J. Fishler, W.H. Rhodes, J.M. Carter, and C.M Poole.

In 1963, Dr. Rhodes was appointed editor of the Journal of the American Veterinary Radiology Society. In that year, the journal appeared in a form similar to the form of Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound and began accepting for review original manuscripts concerned with any phase of veterinary radiology or allied disciplines. For the next nine years, through volume 13, 1972, the JAVRS continued as an annual; a fully illustrated, refereed journal totally devoted to veterinary radiology. The development of veterinary radiology as a specialty can be followed in capsule form by reading Rhodes’ editorials in those issues: 1963 – genesis of the JAVRS, 1964 – summary of the activities of the AVRS, 1965 – first certification examination by the ABVR, 1968 – First International Conference of Veterinary Radiologists held in Dublin, Ireland, 1972 – the metric invasion. In 1973 and 1974 the JAVRS printed two issues each year and in 1975 the page size increased to 8″ x 11″ and the number of issues per year to six. The journal had finally grown up. There were production schedules to meet, advertisements to solicit, manuscripts to review, and typos to correct. Unfortunately, at this same time, the stability of the AVRS was jeopardized by declining membership and rising operational costs, which also jeopardized the journal. Fortunately, Dr. Rhodes did not stand idly by and watch the journal crumble. In 1979 he negotiated an agreement with J.B. Lippincott Company whereby they would assume publication of the journal and it would become the official journal of the ACVR. In late 1979 the journal was reborn as Veterinary Radiology, with the same blue cover familiar to us all. In 1981 after 18 years of serving as editor-in-chief of the only journal devoted solely to veterinary radiology, Dr. W.H. Rhodes elected to relinquish his editorial duties. With Dr. D.E. Thrall, then as Editor in Chief, Dr. Rhodes continued as Consulting Editor from 1981 to 1997.

After being on the faculty for 31 years, Dr. Rhodes retired in 1986, as Emeritus Full Professor of Radiology at the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he had an outstanding teaching and clinical record. He was honored with the school’s first University Wide Distinguished Lindback Teaching Award in 1965, and over the years had a major influence in how hundreds of his students, as veterinarians would practice radiology. He has been a wonderful mentor and/or faculty colleague to approximately 22 of our current ACVR Diplomates. Along with Drs. Bernstein and Kevin Kealy, he also was instrumental in the organization of and subsequent success of the International Veterinary Radiology Association (IVRA). In 1997, the IVRA presented Dr. Rhodes with Honorary Membership, its highest award in recognition of his outstanding world wide contributions to veterinary radiology.

Clearly, Dr. Rhodes has had a monumental impact on the development of veterinary radiology in the world. His contributions created an environment in which radiology could be pursued and enjoyed as never before. Dr. Rhodes is truly deserving of the highest honor that the ACVR can bestow – its Distinguished Service Award.


  1. Gillette, E.L.: Development of Veterinary Radiology in North America. J.Am Vet Radiol Soc 25:34-40, 1974.
  2. Thrall, D.E.: Editorial. Vet. Radiol. 22:50-51, 1981.