By Philip Ward, AuntMinnieEurope.com staff writer

August 19, 2013 -- Dr. Roberto Passariello -- the famous radiologist, educator, and MRI pioneer known in Italy simply as "Professore" -- died on 11 August at the age of 72. He was a former president of the ECR and the European Association of Radiology (EAR).

Dr. Roberto Passariello
Dr. Roberto Passariello, who passed away on 11 August.

According to a statement on the European Society of Radiology's website, "Passariello was a greatly admired radiologist whose tireless dedication to his field is evident from the enormous body of literature he published during his career, the many congresses, seminars and courses he organized, and his work on the editorial boards of numerous scientific journals."

Passariello was born in Rome on 23 January 1941. He completed his medical training at University of Rome "La Sapienza" in 1965, before taking his residency in radiology at the University of Padua. He became professor and chair of radiology at University of L'Aquila in 1986, before returning to La Sapienza in 1991. He spent the rest of his career there, and was responsible for installing Italy's first MRI unit dedicated to the extremities in 1992, the first prototype software for virtual endoscopy in 1998, and the first multislice CT unit in 1999.

He was president of ECR 1999 and the EAR in 1999-2000, and was president of the Italian Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology, the Italian Society of MRI, and the European Society of MR in Medicine and Biology. He was also a key member of the National Research Project on Telemedicine. He received the ECR gold medal in 2003 for his outstanding contribution to and leadership in European radiology.

Dr. Andrea Laghi, associate professor, Department of Radiological Sciences, Oncology and Pathology, University of Rome "La Sapienza," and chairman "Academic Radiology" Unit, I.C.O.T. Hospital, Latina

I want to share with you my last images of Prof. Passariello dated 6 August, when I was working in the clinic where he was director together with Prof. Simonetti. With the help of a resident, I was doing an MR motility study of the upper gastrointestinal tract. This was something completely new to us. He was there, and decided to sit close to us and to follow the exam. After a few seconds, he started asking questions about the technical approach, sequences, indications, etc. He was curious and enthusiastic, like a young radiologist, despite being 72!

Passariello with his team of radiologists from University of Rome La Sapienza at ECR 2013
Passariello with his team of radiologists from University of Rome "La Sapienza" at ECR 2013, after the honorary lecture given by Dr. Carlo Catalano. Also shown are Dr. Iacopo Carbone, Dr. Federica Pediconi, Dr. Alessandro Napoli, Dr. Valeria Panebianco, Dr. Andrea Laghi, and Dr. Marco Francone.

I think curiosity, enthusiasm, and the will to be always on the cutting edge were the driving engines of his personality. After a discussion with him, you were sure to leave his office with a new idea, motivated and ready to start a new scientific adventure.

Of course, I cannot forget the attention he gave to young researchers. Compared with the Italian mentality, he was really unconventional, trying to promote motivated people, despite being the youngest in the department. That happened to me in the early 1990s, and I think this is one of the most important legacies for us that I am trying to follow in my institute right now.

I have written these words during a hot Sicilian summer, a few days after the death of our master, Prof. Passariello. Holidays are a strange period: You are out of town for three or four weeks and you forget your work place and people who drive and animate it. I think we will really be conscious of his loss when we are back in Rome, in our offices. We will look at his door, closed forever...

Passariello with Robert N. Muller, PhD
Passariello receives the 1992 European Magnetic Resonance Award from Robert N. Muller, PhD. Image courtesy of the Round Table Foundation (TRTF) and European Magnetic Resonance Forum (EMRF) archives.

Dr. Davide Caramella, head of radiology at the Santa Chiara Hospital, Pisa, Italy, and president of the 2012 Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery (CARS) congress

My personal recollection of the 'Professore' -- as he was simply called in Italy -- is of a very amiable man who put his academic mission on top of his own priorities. He was a pioneer in MRI and in computer applications in radiology. A particularly admirable attitude of his was his ability to involve young colleagues from Italy and abroad in large multidisciplinary research activities. He will be missed at the [European Society of Radiology] ESR level as well, since in the last two decades he devoted huge efforts to improving the scientific content of the ECR and launching the ESR.

Restaurant gathering Restaurant gathering
Passariello loved social gatherings with his radiology colleagues in Rome. Images courtesy of Dr. Franco Iafrate and Dr. Federica Pediconi.

Dr. Marco Francone, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Radiological Sciences, Oncology and Pathology, University of Rome "La Sapienza"

Tracing a scientific and personal profile of Prof. Passariello is extremely difficult, not only because of the limited time (13 years) I had the honor to be trained by and to work with him (or I should say literally "brought up" by), as compared to his long career, but also because of the numerous achievements and prizes and international recognition he collected.

He was known to be a very tough and severe person, highly demanding with his co-workers and constantly involved in the organization of a course/congress or preparation of a lecture -- and I was honestly one of his preferred victims for this purpose! He was also able to become extremely friendly and warm in social events, a natural-born leader and a kind of 'jolly-fellow' with his colleagues.

A few years ago, we were at an ECR during a crowded and boring interuniversity dinner, and Prof. Passariello started to serve at the tables like a real waiter in order to speed up the incredibly slow service. He really did pour the wine and bring the various courses to all guests!

Also, few people probably know that he was a fantastic swimmer who won the 1960 'traversata dello Stretto' -- a long-distance (6 km) international endurance race between Messina and Reggio Calabria in the south of Italy. He had great athletic skills.

Finally, I have a clear image of him at ECR 2003, when he received the gold medal. He could not choke back the tears, understanding the importance of the achievement and recognition of an entire life dedicated to growing and promoting radiology.

Winning an endurance swimming race
In 1960, Passariello won the international 6 km endurance swimming race between Messina and Reggio Calabria. Image courtesy of Gianni Zaottini.

Dr. Valeria Panebianco, Prostate Unit Diagnostic Coordinator, Department of Radiological Sciences, Oncology and Pathology, University of Rome "La Sapienza"

I started to collaborate with Prof. Passariello for my medical degree in 1992-1993, and for the last 20 years he has been my master and mentor. He truly gave to me the sense of duty, and especially the constant pulse for research of new horizons. It was a great privilege to work with him, and he always retained the same commitment and interest.

Just on the 9th of August, after reporting an ankle MRI of a friend of his, he came out with this historic sentence: "My dear, you are not an interesting case!" On the same day, before I said a final goodbye to him, I was very happy to tell him: "Professor, you are a great master and with you it is always a pleasure to collaborate." He responded to me, "Valeria, remember to always be prepared for other new challenges!"

Dr. Iacopo Carbone, assistant professor of radiology, Department of Radiological Sciences, Oncology and Pathology, University of Rome "La Sapienza"

I had the privilege and the opportunity to work with Prof. Passariello for the past 15 years. It has been an unforgettable part of my professional life, and I have come to appreciate his remarkable human and professional qualities as a teacher and mentor. He was a role model for me.

Prof. Passariello always motivated his coworkers with his enthusiasm -- he was the youngest doctor in the radiology department in terms of spirit and new ideas -- and the department was his reflection. He had excellent advice and time for all of us.

He had a great sense of humor too. Once I phoned him and said: "Hello, professor, this is one of your coworkers speaking." Pretending the line was disturbed, he started to say: "Who is speaking? Dr. Roentgen? Mr. Hounsfield?" One other time I was supposed to meet him at Zurich airport and he was late. So I phoned him asking: "Hello professor, did you miss the plane?" His answer was: "I usually don't miss a plane but I might lose coworkers."

It is very difficult for me to accept his loss because I always imagined he would be in my life, guiding me with his advice and wisdom. Now the most difficult part is I have to continue my path without him, carrying his heritage with me for the rest of my life.

According to the ESR website, official condolences should be sent to:

La Direzione, Sapienza Università di Roma, Policlinico Umberto I
Dipartimento di Scienze Radiologiche, Oncologiche e Anatomo-Patologiche
Viale Regina Elena 324, 161 Rome, Italy

Private condolences may be sent to:

Famiglia Passariello, Via Mogadiscio 15, 00199 Rome, Italy


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