Bill Marshall, an early proponent of CT and MRI to diagnose and treat disease, dies at 92

The Stanford Medicine professor was well known as a mentor and teacher, as well as for his expertise in neuroradiology.

- By Jennifer Welsh

Bill Marshall

William “Bill” Henry Marshall Jr., MD, a professor emeritus of radiology and former chief of neuroradiology at the Stanford School of Medicine, died Dec. 16 at Stanford Hospital after a short illness. He was 92.

During his decades-long career in the radiology department, Marshall was known for developing safer and more effective radiology procedures using new technologies, including computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. He was a fantastic mentor and teacher, training many neuroradiologists who had notable careers, according to his peers.

“Bill will be remembered for establishing Stanford as a premier center for the emerging field of neuroradiology,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs at Stanford University. “He was an expert in the field, and he will be missed among his peers and across Stanford for his humanity, compassion and humility.”

Marshall founded the neuroradiology section and led it for 17 years. Working with his colleagues and trainees, he created an elite institution at Stanford Medicine for imaging the brain and spinal cord. He brought new technologies to the department, including angiograms, CT scans and MRI machines. These techniques were more accurate, much safer and more easily tolerated by patients.

“It was a very exciting time for all of us in radiology — everything kept changing. You had to keep learning and developing new things,” said Barton Lane, MD, professor emeritus of radiology. Marshall worked with neurosurgeons and pathologists to create imaging-based tests and procedures to diagnose and treat brain, spine, head and neck diseases using these new technologies, a field called interventional neuroradiology. “Bill was a pioneer in this field.”

“He was an extremely nice man. He got along well with all his colleagues and was admired and respected by everybody,” Lane added. “He was a man who marched to a different drum. He had a brain wired differently than many other people — in a good way. He was curious.”

Marshall used his curiosity to invest in his students and trainees, said his daughter, Jennifer Hathaway. “Some people in their careers are all about accumulating achievements. He focused more on accumulating knowledge and sharing that knowledge with his students.”

His greatest satisfaction was providing opportunities for his trainees, ensuring they had even greater careers than him, his family said.

Bill Marshall was instrumental in helping Stanford Medicine procure its first CT scanner and MRI machines.
Bob Rauktis

A career of endless curiosity

Marshall was born Nov. 30, 1931, in Syracuse, New York, to parents Ruth Hall Marshall and William H. Marshall, Sr. He was the middle child, between two sisters. His mother worked as a teacher, and his father was a farmer and a grocer, then managed properties when they moved to Orlando, Florida, in the mid-1930s. Marshall considered the area around Port Byron, New York, his home, spending summers there with his aunts, uncles and cousins.

Marshall was always academically gifted, his family said, earning awards throughout his years of education. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1953 and his medical degree in 1956, both from the University of Rochester in New York.

He interned at the University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, then served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps for two years, stationed in the Red Sea.

Marshall’s medical residency in radiology brought him to Stanford in 1959; he left in 1960 for a yearlong American Cancer Society fellowship at the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York. When he returned to Stanford in 1961, he served as chief resident.

After residency, Marshall entered private practice at the Palo Alto Medical Clinic. He also worked at the local Veterans Administration hospital. But Stanford Medicine drew him back in 1964 when he joined the radiology department as an instructor and founded the neuroradiology section with Leslie Zatz, MD.

At Stanford Medicine, he met his future wife, Jane, a medical secretary. They started dating in 1968 and married on New Year’s Eve in 1970. The pair settled down in Los Altos, California, and had two children, Herbert in 1977 and Jennifer in 1979.

Marshall became an assistant professor of radiology in 1966, section chief of neuroradiology in 1971, and associate professor and senior attending physician in 1972. He became a professor of clinical radiology in 1978. He served as chief until 1988.

While at Stanford, Marshall took unpaid leave to work as a surgeon in civilian hospitals in Da Nang, Vietnam, with the Volunteer Physicians for Vietnam Program in 1967. He was there for four months, performing surgeries, improving their radiology practices and teaching medical students.

Marshall was instrumental in helping Stanford Medicine procure its first CT scanner and MRI machines. “He got in on the ground floor of these breakthrough technologies, which helped render obsolete some of the more painful and invasive procedures we did,” Lane said. “Interestingly enough, it didn’t diminish the number of procedures we were doing. Radiology became more and more treatment-oriented, or ‘interventional,’ as opposed to diagnostic. With Bill’s lead, the interventional neuroradiology program at Stanford became one of the best in the country.”

Bill Marshall "was a bit of a thrill seeker," his daughter said.
Courtesy of the Marshall family

An adventurous life

When Marshall retired in 1994, he was called “one of the department’s greatest adventurers” and could be spotted riding his red, white and black motorcycle along Skyline Boulevard, a winding road in the hills above the Stanford University campus. “He would take his motorcycle to the racetrack and get timed to see how fast he could go — he was a bit of a thrill seeker,” Hathaway said.

He gave up motorcycling in his 70s but continued to get his thrills through water skiing and snow skiing. He was a water ski jumper in his youth and continued to slalom ski into his 80s. He enjoyed snow skiing in the winters, relishing getting free lift tickets after turning 80. He also loved playing racquetball and met many friends on the courts at Stanford University.

He loved good conversation and company but wasn’t interested in superficial relationships, his family members said; he fostered profound, connected relationships with his friends and family.

When his friend and mentor Henry Jones, MD, was recuperating from an illness, Marshall began visiting daily, taking him and eventually their longtime colleague Don Nagel, MD, for a walk almost every day. The walks continued for years.

“We very much admired the way he took care of those around him,” Hathaway said, noting that he was close with his younger sister and her children, especially after his brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly.

She added that he was also a loving father who prioritized eating dinner as a family, reading to his children and teaching them World War I-era songs his mother had sung to him as a child.

He wasn’t a stereotypical dad coaching little league, Hathaway said, but he wanted to give his kids experiences. He was a fan of poetry, opera and the arts, taking his family on trips to see shows or museums and art exhibits.

“He was forever an academic, always inquisitive and knowledgeable about almost all subjects and also always wanting to teach something new,” said his wife, Jane Marshall.

He also loved traveling around the United States and abroad. The family visited national parks and took the backroads of the Eagle Lake region in Northern California. They spent summers traveling to New York for family reunions.

Marshall received a Lifetime Achievement award from the radiology department in 2009. He also served as president of the Western Neuroradiological Society in 1983 and as chair of the Radiation Producing Machines Committee for 22 years.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Jane Olsen Marshall of Los Altos; their children, Jennifer Hathaway of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and son Herb Marshall of Los Altos; and three granddaughters and two grandsons.

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit med.stanford.edu.

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