William Dickerson, MD: Faces Behind MCMi
The events of September 11, 2001, had a direct impact on me. I was an Air Force physician, at the time practicing radiation oncology at Travis Air Force Base in California. I had served 24 years in the military, including service in Vietnam and Korea. I had just been approved for retirement and planned to practice medicine as a civilian physician in California. Then came September 11. The Army, Navy, and Air Force quickly implemented "Stop Loss," which meant that all retirements and other separations from the military were cancelled indefinitely.
While waiting for "Stop Loss" to lift, I received an email from the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI) in Bethesda, Maryland, expressing a need for a radiation oncologist at that facility. I decided to volunteer for that assignment.
I joined the AFRRI faculty in 2002 and began learning about the medical effects of nuclear weapons, “dirty bombs,” nuclear reactor accidents, and other radiation accidents. I became involved in the planning and implementation of national radiologic and nuclear disaster exercises and in planning the use of medical countermeasures for rad/nuke events to support the Department of Defense (DoD) and other US governmental agencies.
As an instructor with AFRRI, I had the opportunity to give numerous lectures and presentations to hundreds of military and civilian medical personnel on how to treat radiation injury. After finally retiring from the military in 2007, I continued my interest in the educational field related to managing radiation injuries.
I joined FDA in 2011— I think my undergraduate engineering degree, combined with my medical degree and more than 20 years’ experience as a radiation oncologist, has been a good fit for my position as a clinical reviewer in FDA’s Division of Medical Imaging Products (DMIP), Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). Among other activities, DMIP is responsible for evaluating medical countermeasures for nuclear and radiation injury.
For example, with support from the Medical Countermeasures initiative (MCMi), we are working with sister agencies, including the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the DoD, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to guide the development and approval of drugs to treat acute radiation syndrome and to evaluate the safety and performance of chelating agents, which can help rid the body of internal radioactive contamination.
I am committed to helping improve our Nation’s response capability by fostering the development and evaluation of the medical products that will be needed to counter a possible radiologic or nuclear incident.
Since completing his radiation oncology residency in 1988, Dr. Dickerson has worked as a radiation oncologist, performing patient care, overseeing phase 2 and phase 3 patient research trials, supervising and managing personnel and equipment in clinics, participating in operational medicine, and teaching medical courses. Following his retirement from active duty as a Colonel with the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Dickerson joined FDA to work as a medical reviewer in the Division of Medical Imaging Products in CDER.