This year, SIR Today salutes each of the Gold Medalists with a look at their outstanding careers. Today, we honor Renate L. Soulen, MD, FSIR, and on Tuesday we salute Karim Valji, MD, FSIR. John A. Kaufman, MD, MS, FSIR, was featured in Sunday’s edition.
Renate L. Soulen, MD, FSIR, was a founding Fellow of SIR — one of only four women in that pioneering group — and served as chair of the society’s third annual meeting in 1978.
After obtaining her medical degree in 1957 from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, now Drexel University College of Medicine, she completed a residency in radiology at Thomas Jefferson University Medical College in 1963.
Dr. Soulen spent the first 22 years of her career as a cardiovascular interventional radiologist at Temple University, including being section chief from 1969 to 1985. She was a founding member of the Philadelphia Angio Club and an advocate for women in medicine.
Active in many local and national professional organizations, Dr. Soulen served on committees reflecting her multimodality interests in the cardiovascular system. She was the first female president of the Philadelphia Roentgen Ray Society. In 1989 Dr. Soulen became a professor of radiology at Wayne State University and director of magnetic resonance imaging at the Detroit Medical Center where she practiced until she retired in 2005.
She will deliver the 2nd Women in IR InspIRed Lecture, discussing her professional journey, from 12–1 p.m. Monday in Room 502B. The event requires advance registration.
SIR Today asked Dr. Soulen to talk about an important person, place and thing that shaped her life and career. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
WHO: My mother, Hanna Leroi
Were it not for her prescience regarding Hitler, I might not be alive. Her foresight, forged by an anti-Semitic episode in her childhood, enabled our family to emigrate from Germany to England in 1933 when I was only three months old. During World War II, British law precluded my father from leaving the country. For the safety of her children, my mother emigrated again, this time to North America, until the family reunited in England at war’s end. Convinced that the U.S. offered more opportunities than England for her children, she persuaded my father to relocate yet again, and the whole family immigrated to the U.S. in 1946.
Adapting to the challenges of life disrupted by war, family separations, relocations and, in later years, health issues, she maintained a positive attitude. In her eighties, she wrote a synopsis of her life and that of my father for her grandchildren, ending: “No matter what happens, never give up and always believe, as we did, in a happy ending.” What a gift! It moves me to tears to this day.
WHERE: Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania
I applied to medical school during the Korean War, when there was a military draft, so the committee responsible for the equivalent of today’s dean’s letter declined to support my application anywhere I would compete with a male. Fortunately, the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, the only all-female medical school in the U.S., accepted me. A school with absolute confidence that one could be a good wife, a good mother and a good doctor, it expected students to prove we were equal by being superwomen. We had more night call than students in the four other medical schools in Philadelphia. If you were pregnant, you were expected to work literally until you went into labor; if you had a normal delivery, you were expected back in two weeks. Family issues were never an excuse for not having your work done. Given options, I would not have chosen to attend an all-female school. However, after four extraordinary years of excellent training, they gave me my union card! I will be forever grateful.
WHAT: My wedding to Dick Soulen
It began a journey, now shared for almost 63 years with Dick, a wonderful man. A research chemist, he shared a fascination with science and an understanding of the high failure rate of research.
We met my freshman year in medical school, through my brother, then an undergraduate in a class Dick taught when a graduate student teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin. Facing a spring break after having just broken my engagement to another person, I fled the East Coast to visit my brother, who still had classes. To give him time to study, Dick volunteered to spend time with me. At that point, I was not interested in getting involved with anyone else — so I didn’t care what he thought of me. Shortly after saying hello, we went for a walk on campus. We came to a hill and I had an overwhelming desire to turn somersaults. So I ran up the hill and turned somersaults all the way down; he followed suit — and the rest is history!
Liberated before that term was coined, Dick has been a full partner in raising our three sons and running a household. We have also shared a passion for music, theater and travel — and lively political discussions from our differing viewpoints! We come from totally different backgrounds, but have the same value set. I am blessed.