Alumni Spotlight: Richard E. Heller III, MD

Richard E. Heller III, MD, is a pediatric radiologist in private practice with Radiology Imaging Consultants in Oak Lawn, Ill., and the newly named chair of radiology for Advocate Children’s Hospital, part of Advocate Health Care, the largest health care provider in Illinois. He and his wife, Beth, vice president of Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group, are passionate about children’s charities (they have two boys: Richard IV, 8, and Julian, 5) and art, and they have found unique ways to express those passions in both their personal and professional lives.
How did you become interested in pediatric radiology?

My grandfather was a surgeon and my father is a pediatric radiologist. I was interested in both fields and although my original intent was to become a surgeon, I was a little surprised to learn that I wasn’t that coordinated and was therefore advised to seek vocation elsewhere!

Once you decided to specialize in radiology, why did you choose Mallinckrodt for residency training?

There is no place better. You can get a great education at other institutions, but Mallinckrodt is second to none in terms of education, training and research. And it’s only grown stronger in the years since I moved on. It’s a huge credit to the Mallinckrodt leadership that there’s not a lot of turnover; people stay for years and years.

Who were some of the people at Mallinckrodt who left the greatest impression upon you?

Bill McAlister, a friend of my father’s, was a huge influence during my initial interview and residency; a fountain of knowledge, he remains a friend and mentor. Gary Shackelford, who is now retired, was a big name in the field and a real pleasure to work with. Tom Hermann is one of the brightest men I’ve met in life — medicine or otherwise. And Marilyn Siegel — well, you’re not going to do better anywhere. It truly was a pleasure to train with everyone in the pediatric radiology section.

Do you feel your training at Mallinckrodt gave you an advantage as you began and now continue in your career?

Absolutely. Mallinckrodt opened doors for me in two ways. First, because it is such a large program, the Mallinckrodt network extends throughout the country. This means that I can find a Mallinckrodt radiologist in any region of the country when I need to reach out. Second, the Mallinckrodt brand is so respected that it practically opens doors by itself. When someone hears you trained at Mallinckrodt, the expectation is that you will perform at a very high level.

Does your association with Mallinckrodt continue to play a role in your professional life today?

Yes. Bob McKinstry has become a close contact; we have different approaches and that is helpful when dealing with issues such as the changing dynamic of radiology and the shifting health care marketplace. Sanjeev Bhalla and Cooky Menias were both senior to me and very influential — a dynamic duo. We remain friends and I don’t hesitate to reach out for their help. I’ve also stayed close with fellow residents, such as Howard Harvin and Naveen Parti, who are both wonderful radiologists.

In which are you more invested — the business of medicine or clinical practice?

I enjoy both. Being a practicing radiologist who reads exams every day helps me to remain creative and gives me credibility and insight into the business aspects of health care. One of my non-clinical activities is consulting on investment and growth strategies in the health care industry, and I have a special interest in the medical imaging services market and in health information technology. I will be speaking on value creation in radiology at RSNA 2014.

What are your interests beyond radiology?

My biggest passion outside of medicine is art, particularly the importance of art for the community and for children. My wife and I have a contemporary art collection featuring works by Andy Warhol, Jenny Holzer and Glenn Ligon, among others. I currently serve as acquisition chairman of Emerge, the emerging artist acquisition council for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Recently, through my wife, I’ve also become involved in imaging sports memorabilia.

How did you first become interested in art?

My love of art really started to blossom while I was at Mallinckrodt; I found art to be a very useful and important hobby to focus my mind and relax during the intensity of residency training. In fact, I purchased my first “significant” piece while still a resident, paying monthly installments on it until we sold our home in St. Louis to move to Chicago.

How have you managed to blend your passion for contemporary art with your professional life?

After we relocated, my wife and I were looking for a local charity to support. We found RxArt, a non-profit organization that installs art in pediatric hospitals to stimulate healing. Working with RxArt founder and president Diane Brown, we were very blessed and lucky to bring Jeff Koons to my facility, Advocate Children’s Hospital in Chicago, where he and his studio designed an entire CT scan room, including the machine itself.