By Scot Macdonald
Dr. Stewart Fordham has a vision: a future day when every individual has an annual MRI to detect disease early, when it is most easily treatable.
“The model now for medicine is to treat disease once it occurs,” Dr. Fordham said. “If we can treat disease when it’s beginning, it not only helps the patient—it helps reduce the cost. Good medicine is good economics. It’s going to take a conscious effort and even more vision.”
To make progress towards that day, Dr. Fordham made a gift to name and endow the Stewart Dale Fordham, MD, Chair in Radiology, and the Stewart Dale Fordham Distinguished Resident and Faculty awards, as well as support the department’s residency program. He hopes his gift will stimulate others to give and support the Department of Radiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
“I believe in giving back,” he said. “I spent my formative years and training in radiology at USC, so I wanted to become involved in the program. USC has a very advanced residency program and the chairs have been adept at molding the program to today’s needs in medicine. I thought naming the chair would be appropriate. I am confident that the chairholder will take the program from great to greater.”
In addition, his gift established awards for the top resident and top faculty member each year. The first are scheduled to be presented this June.
“It’s not only appropriate but also fitting to recognize people,” he said. “A resident who is good at teaching and mentoring should be acknowledged. I consider myself a lifelong learner and try to encourage our medical students to embrace this philosophy as well. Physician means teacher in Greek and in medicine, we need to continue to acquire and expand our knowledge, so we improve our skills in patient care and optimize patient treatment. I believe the awards will help challenge the residents and faculty to be their best—and recognize their efforts.”
Alumni giving, like Dr. Fordham’s gift, is fundamental to the success of the Keck School of Medicine of USC and departments, such as radiology. It is an essential component to supporting resident education, as well as clinical and research efforts. Beyond providing financial support, alumni serve as role models for students, act as ambassadors for the school, provide invaluable networking resources for students, and help with recruitment and retention. Dr. Fordham’s example of giving back provides a legacy for future generations and will serve as an inspirational role model for others, which will broaden and diversify the base of support for the department and the school.
An Inquisitive Mind, A Diverse Career
Dr. Fordham grew up in Chicago. He attended the only college he applied to, the University of Illinois, on a state scholarship and earned All University Honors. After graduating from medical school at the University of Illinois, he applied for a radiology residency. He was matched with USC given his high ranking in medical school. He found USC open to involving radiologists in patient care in ways other institutions were not.
“The match was the first turn of my fate,” he said. “The residency was very challenging, but I enjoyed it immensely. It was one of my best years in medicine, so exciting. I liked to talk to the doctors who ordered the studies and work up the patient with them in a way. We performed a great service.”
In 1974, he was an assistant professor in radiology at USC with a focus on the nascent field of emergency radiology. He worked in the emergency room, and lectured to ER doctors, residents, and students about emergency radiology—which then became one of the first emergency medicine residencies in the United States.
Dr. Fordham subsequently joined the first multi-specialty group practice in the country, Ross-Loos. As a life-long leaner and intrigued by the various specialties of medicine, he later completed an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) residency at Loma Linda Medical Center.
In 1978, he joined California Primary Physicians, which evolved into HealthCare Partners, and worked there for 40 years. Triple board-certified in radiology, emergency medicine, and ENT, his primary responsibility was overseeing the Regional Radiology Department at HealthCare Partners, while also practicing radiology, emergency medicine, and ENT.
“I like caring for people,” he said. “It was challenging to develop a model and system of care that was successful, while the delivery of health care was evolving. At HealthCare Partners, we specialized in caring for the working-class population and seniors.”
When his group was bought out, he retired in 2012. Retirement didn’t suit him though, so he returned to work. He finally “hung up his lead apron” for the last time in 2018.
Looking back on his career, he said, “I enjoyed every aspect of it. I could not have planned a better career. I had a wonderful and rewarding professional experience and worked alongside dedicated physician who were committed to providing the best quality of care for those in need. I was fortunate to become a doctor, come to USC, and have the career I had. Medicine is such an interesting field, with so many aspects to it—and it is the same with radiology.”
Bringing Radiology to The Future
“Medicine is progressing at a rapid pace and I look forward to observing how healthcare, especially radiology, will develop in the future,” Dr. Fordham said. “Tomorrow’sradiologists will not only diagnose, but also participate to an even greater extent in the treatment of a patient’s medical condition.”
“It’s hard to anticipate how radiology and imagining will affect patient care in the future,” he said. “But it is just the beginning for radiology. The next generation of radiologists are going to implement new modalities in ways that cannot be foreseen. With every invention, many think, ‘This is it; we will never go beyond this.’ But it always leads to the next discovery and application. Computers and artificial intelligence will enable radiologists to expand their abilities to improve diagnosis and optimize patient treatment, while enhancing efficiency of the health care system.”
“I am confident that the leadership in radiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC will continue to propel the department from ‘Great to Greater.’ I feel privileged to support this effort in bringing radiology forward and encourage them to ‘Fight On’!”