Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University

Remembering an Early Adopter

Ruth with her father

Imagine a middle aged man in doctor’s attire diligently developing X-rays in a dark room with a young girl at his elbow, watching closely as he works.

This is how Ruth Shaber, MD remembers her father, longtime Jefferson doctor and professor Gary Shaber, MD, who passed away in July 2015. “I used to volunteer with my dad to help him and hang out,” she says, recalling the formative experiences in the dark room as part of what inspired her own medical career.

Combining her longstanding passion for women’s health, with her father’s fascination with photography and medicine, Ruth donated $100,000 to support a grant fund for research on breast imaging, with a preference given to junior faculty and fellows. Her goal is for the gift to contribute to “evolving research that’s needed to make care better.”

“I’d like to think this opportunity will result in innovations in how we treat breast cancer,” she says.

“Gary was ahead of his time, not just in the way he thought about medicine, but also in how he thought about people…he was definitely an early feminist,” says Dr. Vijay Rao, the David C. Levin, MD Chair of Radiology, who met Dr. Shaber when she started at Jefferson as a fellow in the early ‘70s. “Every time a leadership opportunity came up, he would encourage me to pursue it. It was only much later that I realized how groundbreaking that was.”

According to Ruth, Dr. Shaber was always a “tinkerer.” During his time at Jefferson, he invented a device to test whether the X-ray development equipment was in proper working order—an important step when a buggy machine could mean a lost negative and a repeated study. He was also among the first to preach the utility of digital imaging.

It is in this tinkerer’s spirit that Ruth has come to support the Department, a way to honor her father’s fascination with how things work. “He could take apart a car, a music box, a remote control and not only put it back together, but make it work better.”