The Whole History

Dr. Harry Weitz had seen many firsts in his 99 years – especially in the medical field. Dr. Weitz was the first radiologist to practice in Northern Michigan, moving to the area in 1938. He was the first to introduce the use of imaging technology to area physician colleagues who soon discovered the merits of his work. Dr. Weitz founded the first radiology clinic in Northern Michigan – the forerunner of what is known today as Grand Traverse Radiologists, P.C., a highly specialized 19-member physician group practice. Born on October 6, 1909 in New York City, Harry Weitz spent part of his childhood living on a farm and part of it helping out a family run restaurant in the Eastern Market, after relocating to Detroit, Michigan. Weitz attended Detroit Northern High School followed by Detroit Central College, where he completed his undergraduate degree in 1930. In 1934, Weitz graduated from Detroit College of Medicine (which is now known as Wayne State University Medical School). Internship in internal medicine, and residency in radiology/radiation therapy followed at Detroit Receiving Hospital and Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. When asked how he became interested in pursuing a career in medicine, Weitz indicated that it probably dated back to his days on the farm where he was fascinated by animal anatomy. In 1938, Dr. Weitz was recruited by Dr. Sheets to move to Traverse City as a radiologist to open a new department at the hospital which had just gotten new imaging equipment. It was during the same year that he married Ellamarie and started their new life in Northern Michigan. At that time, the hospital (now known as Munson Medical Center) was a 50-bed facility and was still part of the former State Hospital. Weitz was encouraged to introduce himself to the other 20 or so physicians on staff and explain to them what services he could provide. In those early days, Dr. Weitz was a one-man show, taking x-rays, developing the films, interpreting the results, typing up the reports and getting back to his colleagues with his findings. Because radiology was quite a new field at the time, most of his colleagues had no idea how x-rays could or should be used, when to order them, or – as family practitioner Dr. James Gauntlet asked Weitz incredulously – why anyone would need an X-Ray. But, with time and demonstration of his unique skills, Dr. Weitz became very busy assisting physicians in diagnosing and treating their patients. It was with Dr. Weitz’s help, that the medical community in Northern Michigan took a giant step forward in state-of-the art technology and the ability to offer comprehensive services to its community members. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jerry Jerome was one who believed in radiology and how it could help him practice medicine. He asked for (and got) a fluoroscope for the hospital. Dr. Jerome would call Dr. Weitz at all hours of the day and night. Twenty-hour days were common for Weitz. For the first few months in Traverse City, Weitz had just two machines to work with – a movable diagnostic unit and a stationary 100KV therapy unit. The film used at the time had a material on it that glowed when exposed to x-rays. The new fluoroscope was used for imaging internal structures such as the intestines. Dr. Weitz would give the patient a contrast material, like barium, and then when the x-rays went through the patient's body, he would see the material as it flowed through the intestinal tract. Since the fluorescent screens used during this exam produced limited light, it required radiologists to sit in a darkened room. Red goggles, first developed in 1916, were used to accustom physicians to the lack of light... "It was amazing how much we could diagnose and the level of accuracy we were able to achieve, considering the limited equipment we had back in those days," says Weitz. The bulk of his work in the early days consisted of chest x-rays, extremity x-rays, abdominal x-rays, IVP’s (intravenous pyelograms), upper GIs, and barium enemas. He did not have an assistant or technician in the beginning. Dr. Weitz wore a lead apron and lead gloves when he was imaging, quite different from his training where he had no protection. When World War II began, Dr. Weitz joined the Army, but didn't get sent overseas since he was the only radiologist in Northern Michigan and the government believed he was a critical medical resource for the region. It was during the war, that Dr. Weitz was asked to scan all of the State Hospital patients for TB. Because resources were scarce during the War, Weitz had to come up with a creative screening technique using minimal x-ray film. Dr. Weitz performed fluoroscopies on these patients to check for potential tuberculosis, spending two days a week there. He examined around 2700 patients over the course of three months and found 12-15 suspicious cases of tuberculosis. He also discovered some malignant tumors in the process that would have otherwise gone undiagnosed. For the cases he identified, patients were taken over to Munson for additional x-ray studies and treatment. "I could tell the difference between the two – cancer and TB – very well,” says Weitz. When asked what the greatest advancement in radiology was during his years of practice, Weitz stated “the x-ray image intensifier.” This technology, which was introduced to the marketplace in the 1950's, was truly cutting edge. Current radiologists are taken back when they think of their specialty before the days of the intensifier. It revolutionized fluoroscopy by amplifying the light produced, allowing images to be viewed in lit rooms on television type monitors and making the use of goggles obsolete. With the use of an accompanying camera, the physicians could view the procedure while standing in another room, greatly reducing the risk of radiation exposure. In 1955, after 17 years as the only radiologist in Northern Michigan, Weitz finally got permission from Munson to hire a second radiologist, Don Otto, who was with him for five years. Bob Williams came on board in 1960 and Maurie Pelto in 1963. The three officially incorporated as Grand Traverse Radiologists, PC in 1968. In 1975, having been widowed two years earlier, Harry Weitz married his second wife, Arlene. Although Dr. Weitz retired from Munson in 1976, he continued to provide services to the Traverse City State Hospital as well as hospitals in Northport and Frankfort. Weitz had kept up on radiology advancements and saw the CT as the single most significant advancement in the field. His colleagues remain amazed by the passion he had for the field, compassion for his patients, and his sharp mind and intellect. Weitz enjoed sharing interesting stories of life as the first and only Northern Michigan radiologist. From diagnosing the first case of mononucleosis to diagnosing lymphomas and carcinomas, Weitz helped many patients. He was even known to help out a few of our four footed furry friends as well. Since Weitz started, the corporation has been successful in recruiting regional “locals” and generational member physicians. Today, the group has three, second generation physicians as well as others who grew up in Northern Michigan. Thank you, Harry, for saying yes in 1938. You will be remembered in the medical community, as a well-respected colleague, and a very tough act to follow. In memory - Dr. Harry Weitz 1909-2009

Michelle Lung, M.D.
Louis Magagna, M.D.
C. David Phelps, M.D.

Ryan Holmes, M.D.

Charles Weitz, M.D.
Leah Carlson, M.D.

William Allsopp, D.O.
Frederick Brodeur, M.D.
Farhaan Mir, M.D.
Edward Walsh, M.D.
Jeffrey Arbour, PA-C

Daniel Boss, M.D.
Jesse Johnson, M.D.
Todd Kennell, M.D

Leah Davis, D.O.
Patrick Gartland, M.D.

Anthony Livorine, M.D.
L. Nicholas Richmond, M.D.

William Karczewski, M.D.

Jennifer Coleman, MHSA, FACHE
Charly King, CPC, RCC