“It’s a funny story,” replied Mark Goodman ’69, when asked how he came to be a student at Monmouth College in 1965.
Goodman, who returned to campus in October as part of MC’s Alumni Distinguished Visitor program, was recently in the news for receiving the Paul C. Aebersold Award for Outstanding Achievement in Basic Science applied to Nuclear Medicine. A member of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, where he is a professor and chair of imaging science, Goodman was described as “a visionary in the field of nuclear and molecular imaging.”
The Aebersold Award was not the first for Goodman’s mantle. In 2010, he received the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s Michael J. Welch Award for making an outstanding contribution to the field of radiopharmaceutical sciences.
Before his “visionary” days, Goodman was a typical student at Thomas Jefferson High School in Elizabeth, N.J., thinking about the next step in his education.
“My Uncle Mo was a high school chemistry teacher,” said Goodman. “I asked him about possible colleges I could attend, and he recommended Monmouth.”
Goodman did some quick research on the school, turning to a Dell Publishing Co. college guide.
“They said some very lovely things about Monmouth,” he said of the publishers. “They gave it a glowing recommendation.”
Goodman was also drawn to Monmouth because of its “intimate size,” so in August of 1965, he took off from Newark Airport on his first airplane ride, landing at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, riding a bus to Union Station and taking the train to Monmouth. The 17-year-old freshman had never visited the campus before starting classes.
“I found out after the fact that my Uncle Mo had meant the Monmouth in New Jersey,” laughed Goodman.
At first interested in a 3-2 chemical engineering program, Goodman soon changed his focus to chemistry because “physics didn’t excite me.” He caught the department in a period of transition, as legendary professor Garrett Thiessen passed away after Goodman’s sophomore year. Some of his other influences in the department were only on campus for a short time, including David Dunham, Berwyn Jones, Robert Meyer and Kevin Weidenbaum.
“I worked with Professor Dunham on my senior project,” said Goodman. “He had gone to Ohio University, so that’s where I went to grad school.”
Among other Monmouth memories, Goodman recalls working for the food service for 75 cents an hour and enjoying Monmouth’s intramural program – in particular, the 12-inch softball league.
“I was playing center field, because I was fast. The bases were loaded, and there were two out. A fly ball came over my head. I ran as fast as I could, and I dove straight out. I caught it in both of my hands – there are no gloves in 12-inch softball – and we won the game.”
Thanks to Goodman’s radiopharmaceutical, cancer patients are now winning, too. Radiopharmaceuticals are tracers used in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. His research has resulted in the translation of the first reported synthetic amino alicyclic acid radiolabeled with the PET radioelement fluorine-18 for imaging both intracranial tumors and prostate cancer in patients.
“It allows you to administer it like a magic bullet,” Goodman explained. “It hones in on a particular site where the number of proteins on the surface of a tumor cell is upgraded. The imaging can detect the location of cancer cells. What you want to see is if the lesion is an inflammation, or is it cancer. If it’s cancer, you try to treat it. It works for brain, lung and breast cancer, in addition to the prostate.”
Through the tracers, “You can visualize the cancer,” Goodman explained. “Is it there? Is it localized? Has it spread? That’s the signature research that I’ve conducted.”
After attending Ohio University, Goodman completed his doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of Alabama. He worked as a chemist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, then joined the department of radiology at Harvard University in 1978 to pursue the development of positron emitting carbohydrates and fatty acids.
In 1980, Goodman took a position as a staff scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and worked on the development of single-photon labeled fatty acids and carbohydrates. His research led to the development of the methylbranched fatty acid [123I] BMIPP, which has been commercially introduced in Japan as Cardiodine.
In 1987, Dr. Goodman moved to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where he took the position of associate professor of radiology and director of radiopharmaceutical chemistry to help establish the University of Tennessee PET program. Six years later, he joined the radiology faculty at Emory University, where he established its PET radiopharmaceutical research program.
During his time on campus, Goodman was invited to speak to several science classes. His message, he said, was that “science is an attractive major in terms of careers that you can utilize after graduation. My advice to students is to go as far as you can go in your chosen field. Don’t limit your horizons – get the highest degree you’re capable of achieving. You never know what kind of opportunities will come your way. The opportunities in the sciences are endless. You need to have knowledge to be able to make a difference. You can go to an outstanding liberal arts college like Monmouth and be just as successful as those who attended larger colleges and universities.”