Lessons Applied to My Career in Sports Radiology from My Dad – The Father of Hockey – Gordie Howe

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The son of Gordie Howe reflects on his path from the ice to a career in medical imaging.

By Dr. Murray Howe, MD, head of Sports Medicine Imaging for Toledo Radiological Associates.

It’s an understatement to say that growing up with hockey icon Gordie Howe as our father, the Howe kids were as comfortable in ice skates as other kids were in running shoes. As a toddler I lived in hockey rinks, breathed the language of the sport, and I idolized my father, who dominated his sport so seemingly effortlessly and graciously.

My two brothers also became professional hockey players. So naturally, I’m often asked how I ended on the sidelines so to speak, as a sports radiologist. The answer? I lacked talent! But thankfully, my Dad taught me many lessons more important than skating.

bookcover for book written by Gordie Howe's son

The late Gordie Howe taught his son many lessons more important than skating.

Lesson #1: Live selflessly. I’ve had my share of injuries as a hockey player, and I was grateful for the physicians who took the time to treat, educate, guide, and reassure me on my road back to recovery. As a physician myself, I feel tremendous satisfaction from applying these skills to help my patients get back in the game after their injuries.

Lesson #2: Play hard but have fun. I really wanted a career that was fun, and I was willing to work hard to get there. I loved the challenges of medical school, as well as my radiology training. I continue to push myself physically, spiritually, creatively, socially, and academically. In order to be the finest health care professional I can be, I strive to live the most fulfilling, as well as healthiest, lifestyle I can. My profession facilitates that.

I will never forget how and when I decided to specialize in radiology. In my second year of medical school, we had an anatomy lecture by a radiologist, Dr. Barry Gross. He is a very charismatic, brilliant, and funny person. He showed us CAT scans and I was awestruck. I did not even know there was a specialty called radiology. I cornered Barry after the lecture and peppered him with questions. From that point on, I spent the rest of my medical school days hanging out in the radiology department. I am very grateful that I met Barry almost 40 years ago. We are still great friends today.

The magic of musculoskeletal imaging

When I decided to specialize in radiology in 1983, MRIs were just coming on board. They were primarily a research tool. It could take an hour and a half to do a brain MRI back then, compared to minutes today for some exams.

When I saw my first MRIs of the knees, the imaging almost seemed like magic. I started doing rotations in the musculoskeletal side and later chose it as my sub-specialty. I greatly admire the minds behind the technology that can conceive of new ways to look at spinning protons. Then and now, imaging science fascinates me.

Dad shared my sense of wonder of medical imaging. He was blown away when I showed him his own studies. He’d say, “I don’t even know how you know what you’re looking at; but I’m glad somebody knows how to do this stuff.”

image of Dr. Howe and his father

Dr. Howe poses with his father, the late Gordie Howe, a professional ice hockey player for 32 seasons in the National Hockey League and the World Hockey Association.

An image (ing) overhaul

Over the 36-year course of my career, I’ve seen fantastic leaps in radiology technology, especially in the quality of MRI and CT imaging. As a result, radiologists can see abnormalities much better than even a few of years ago. Advances like having more detectors on the CAT scan means the scans are more rapid, and the processing techniques are much more detailed. 3D images allow us to identify pathology that we could never see before, like pulmonary emboli and tiny brain aneurysms. It’s truly amazing. All these advancements in imaging modalities help us take better care of our patients.

During my career, I have also seen the profession of radiology undergo a transformation. In the early days, where we mostly read abdomen and chest X-rays, few physicians seemed to take note of the radiologist’s report. Often, the reports weren’t read until after the patient was out of surgery, if at all. Today most surgeons won’t sharpen their scalpel until they have all the imaging reports in hand.

Lesson #3: Live honorably. My team members and myself value our patients and our fellow clinicians. We are there 24/7/365 for the referring physicians and their patients. We treat every patient, as well as every health care provider and administrator, as we would like to be treated: With patience, respect, and a willingness to help them however we can.

#sportsradiology #sportsmedicine #GordieHowe #NHL

Read Dr. Howe’s first blog, A Day in the Life of a Sports Radiologist.

Dr. Murray Howe is the youngest son of hockey icon, Gordie Howe (the Father of Hockey), and head of Sports Medicine Imaging for Toledo Radiological Associates and Promedica Health System’s Sports Care program. Dr. Howe is an associate clinical professor at the University of Toledo Medical Center and serves on the University of Michigan Medical School Admissions Committee. He has four decades of experience as a keynote speaker across Canada and the US covering various topics including sports medicine, health and wellness, and hockey. Dr. Howe recently published his first book, Nine Lessons I Learned from My Father.  



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