In Memory of Ronald Lanny Van Heertum, MD

November 23, 1940 - December 7, 2022

Dr. Ronald L. Van Heertum, eminent nuclear medicine physician and professor of radiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) for more than 20 years, passed away on Wednesday, December 7th, 2022. He will be missed by friends and colleagues.

Dr. Van Heertum served in multiple leadership positions during his tenure at CUIMC. He was vice chair of the Department of Radiology from 1993 to 2012. He pioneered the department’s nuclear medicine program and served as the medical director of the Morton A. Kreitchman PET Center, also from 1993 to 2012. In 2008, he was appointed interim department chair and led the department until 2010.

He was known in the department as a passionate educator and mentor to many in nuclear medicine.

Born in Engelwood, New Jersey on November 23, 1940, he completed his undergraduate studies at Gettysburg College and received his medical degree from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in 1966. He joined the Department of Radiology at CUIMC in 1991 and was a valued faculty member for more than two decades.

While at Columbia, Dr. Van Heertum participated in groundbreaking research in brain imaging and established an international reputation in SPECT and PET imaging. He authored or co-authored over 200 publications and edited the book Functional Cerebral SPECT and PET Imaging, now in its fourth edition.

“Ron was a true gentleman in radiology and nuclear medicine," remembers Lawrence H. Schwartz, MD, James Picker Professor of Radiology, who was appointed chair of the department in 2009. "He excelled as a clinician, educator, and mentor and was so helpful to me as I transitioned into my role at Columbia. He will be sorely missed.”

Rae Vagg, MHA, joined the department in 2008 and served as department administrator and chief financial officer until 2022. "Dr. Van Heertum provided exceptional leadership during a period of transition for the department," she remembers. "He provided sound advice and guidance to me as an administrator new to Columbia and helped me navigate complex scenarios. He will be remembered with great fondness and appreciation for all that he did to support me and advance the department."

Aside from his academic appointments, Dr. Van Heertum was highly active in the national and international medical communities and for a time acted as the chairman of the American Board of Nuclear Medicine as well as the American College of Radiology Nuclear Medicine Accreditation program.

He is survived by his sister Janice Wedderman (VanHeertum) and her husband David of East Stroudsburg, PA and his children, Richard Van Heertum and his wife Vasha of Tolugo Lake , CA; Beth Nutt (Van Heertum) and her husband Joseph of Jacksonville, FL; Jonathan Van Heertum and his wife Sharay of Naples, FL; and Kristin Morris (Van Heertum) and her husband Tyler; as well as his grandchildren Brittany Nutt, Andrew Nutt, Sophie Morris, Diana Van Heertum, Parker Van Heertum, Natalie Morris, and Allison Van Heertum.