Dr. Douglas Fellows: UConn Alumnus Comes Home

Dr. Doug Fellows stands next to a CT scanner at the UConn Medical Center, which is used for advanced imaging. Photo credit: Shawn Kornegay
Dr. Doug Fellows stands next to a CT scanner at the UConn Medical Center, which is used for advanced imaging. Photo credit: Shawn Kornegay

Dr. Douglas Fellows ignored the recruiting calls for six months. Administrators from UConn were calling him to interview at the UConn Health Center, to lead their radiology department. He was happy where he was, as the vice chair of radiology, at UMass Medical Center in Worcester, MA.

But then one day, he finally took the call. He was vacationing on the Cape, at Nauset Beach. “I decided to come down and take a look at the position,” he recalled.

It turned out to be a good fit, and in 2007 Dr. Fellows became UConn Health Center’s new Chair of Diagnostic Imaging and Therapeutics. He liked the size of the practice group and was intrigued by the opportunity for teaching and research the academic practice provided. There was the opportunity to build relationships, positively impact his profession and to go somewhere he admired. “It was like coming home.”

Connection with UConn and Storrs

Fellows has a long, historic connection to UConn that began with his family. He attended E.O. Smith High School, located next to the UConn campus, and played soccer for the State Championship Team. He met his future wife at E.O. Smith, who, along with Fellows and his siblings, pursued a college career at UConn.

His father, Dr. Irving F. Fellows, was a professor at UConn for 40 years in the Department of Agricultural Economics. Dr. Irving Fellows was a UConn alumnus, having earned a B.S. in Dairy Manufacturing from the College of Agriculture in 1937.

The elder Dr. Fellows retired as a professor emeritus in 1981, with a long and distinguished career, including launching programs and initiating public policies that led to the preservation of land in open spaces and agriculture in Connecticut.

There was also a great aunt, who was in the first graduating class that allowed women students. Ethel Freeman’s name is inscribed on a sign at Whitney Hall, noting the historic event.

The senior Fellows encouraged the younger Fellows to attend UConn. The younger Fellows fondly recalled times of sliding on Horse Barn Hill, and being around the campus as a high school student. “There was a certain excitement, being around a university.”

He took his father’s advice, and applied to UConn and never looked back. Fellows frequently comes back to Storrs. He likes to see the campus, and often lectures or tries to attend a soccer game.

Connection with Physical Therapy Program

As an undergrad, Fellows took a human anatomy class. He fell in love with anatomy, and ultimately decided physical therapy would be his career path. After graduation, he spent 10 years working as a physical therapist and as an anatomist.

UConn provided the necessary academic background that would serve him well in medical school, internship, residency and finally in his Fellowship in Neuroradiology at Johns Hopkins.

The physical therapy program has changed over the years, and Fellows appreciates how the program has evolved, for the better. It started as an undergraduate program, then a master’s and, in the past few years, has become a Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

He recalled how tough the program was in his day, and how he had such a wonderful experience, but acknowledges it’s much tougher now. “It’s more difficult, there is stronger faculty and there is a greater integration with other programs.”

Having reconnected with the program in 2007 when he started at UConn Health Center, Fellows has seen the evolution first hand. He noted how there is a lot of sharing of ideas, resources, research and faculty.

When he arrived at UConn, Fellows reached out to Joe Smey (the former dean of the School of Allied Health, which housed the physical therapy program before the School of Allied Health closed). Smey invited him to come back and lecture to a physical therapy class on neuroimaging and he was also invited to give a lecture to alumni and students on “Advanced Imaging for the Clinician.”

The physical therapy program was realigned with the Neag School of Education and has since merged with the Department of Kinesiology. Fellows also connected with Craig Denegar, the current director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program, and Carl Maresh, head of the Department of Kinesiology.

Fellows sees big things for the DPT program. “Under the guidance of Craig and Carl, the program is already emerging as a great program. They are really reaching out, bringing in top notch students.”

There is a lot more sharing of ideas, and because of the current leadership, there are higher standards for faculty and students, he noted. “The outcomes are much better now. It’s well-based in science, but not at the expense of interpersonal skills.”

He’s also noticed the difference in the students. “They have real-life experiences, which makes for stronger student applicants.”

An advisory group came out of the evolution of the DPT program, of which Fellows is chairperson. “They invited me to participate with the advisory group; I like where they’re going. They listen well and are willing to implement recommendations.”

In addition to giving lectures and serving on the DPT advisory group, Fellows has also provided insight and guidance for the remodeling of a UConn lab, which will be used by three different departments: physical therapy, kinesiology and biology.

”I’m a physical therapist, an anatomist and a physician. I’ve taught at different levels along the way and see that imaging can provide better insight. It’s a more efficient way for teaching–using advanced imaging,” he said.

Fellows knows that having medical imaging –in the lab, will better help the students correlate course work  with their clinical experiences. “ We can show them how to study the human body with medical images in addition to gross dissection.”

Radiology Industry/Career Path in Military

Prior to joining the civilian world of healthcare radiology, Fellows spent 30 years in the Army, retiring as a colonel. His role as the Radiology Consultant for the Army’s Surgeon General included overseeing 142 radiologists and a $300 million dollar budget.

During his military career, he saw first hand the evolution of physical therapy as a profession. “ In the Army, we were the first to utilize physical therapist to perform primary screening of patients and to perform EMGs (electromyography),”he noted. “It was really fun to be part of the group, and the military supported the profession by sending folks to graduate school and medical schools.”

Fellows is enthusiastic about the prospects of radiology at the UConn Health Center and has big plans. He is focusing on improving the quality of clinical care, assuring highly effective education of residents and medical students, maintaining a high level of professionalism and being fiscally responsible to the Health Center. The Radiology residency has recently received full accreditation, for the maximum five years, without any citations.

As chair of radiology, he’s already been involved with numerous research projects, including aging of the brain, prostate cancer, detecting adverse effects of chemotherapy on the heart by MRI and other important health issues.

“CT and MRI have provided wonderful opportunities for research,” he said.

He is also enthusiastic about the upcoming Bioscience Connecticut project, where his team will provide leadership and insight, with their expertise in diagnostic imaging, to the planning process and in the acquisition of the advanced imaging devices that will help improve the quality of care.

Coming Full Circle

Fellows is appreciative of his good fortune along the way, from UConn as a student, to the military, and back to his current role at UConn.“ Every step, someone has facilitated me. I always live by giving back.”

“I want to do it well, move on and provide new opportunities for others. I want to let them come up, and let others be successful,” he said.

He learned these values from his parents, which were reinforced by his years in Scouting, resulting in becoming an Eagle Scout while at E.O. Smith High School, and his years in the military.

“Loyalty. Integrity. Service above Self. Personal Courage.”

Those are good words to live by. Dr. Fellows is glad to be back at UConn. The sentiments are mutual.