Dr. James Prichard is honored for medical contributions

Dr. James Prichard addressed the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine in Melbourne, Australia in May after receiving the Silver Medal for "outstanding contributions" to the work of the society. — Photo courtesy of James Prichard

James Prichard and Sarah Moore of West Tisbury traveled to Melbourne, Australia, in May to attend the annual meeting of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, where Dr. Prichard received the ISMRM’s Silver Medal for outstanding contributions to the work of the society.

In an email to The Times, Dr. Prichard said that in 1980, he began work in the then new field of biomedical nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), following an academic career in clinical neurology and electrophysiology studying mechanisms of antiepileptic drug action. His work led to a professorship in neurology at Yale University. Over a 20-year period he collaborated with other Yale scientists in a series of landmark studies that opened new paths of brain research which continue to be followed, Dr. Prichard said.

Shortly after his retirement from the Yale full-time faculty in 2000, Dr. Prichard said he was asked by the ISMRM to become the first interviewer for a video oral history program that it initiated to capture the personal recollections of people important in development of biomedical NMR methods. Dr. Prichard’s contribution to the interview program was cited as the reason for the award he received from ISMRM President Dibao Li in Melbourne.

Work in NMR eventually led to the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines now familiar in scientific and medical facilities worldwide, including Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Dr. Prichard emphasized the role of luck in development of NMR. He said the right people came together at the right time.

“Physicists and biologists all over the world had to teach each other a lot before we could even frame good questions for the revolutionary new technology to answer,” he said. “The good news is that we did.”