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Harvey L. Nisenbaum, a distinguished Philadelphia radiologist, dies at 77

Dr. Nisenbaum had a long career as a radiology leader at Einstein Medical Center and then Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. He was active in professional societies, and as a researcher and educator.

Harvey L. Nisenbaum
Harvey L. NisenbaumRead moreCourtesy of the Nisenbaum Family

Harvey L. Nisenbaum, 77, of Wynnewood, a leading radiologist in Philadelphia for more than four decades, died Thursday, Oct. 8, of complications from glioblastoma in Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse.

Born in Boston, he graduated from Boston Latin School, Tufts University School of Engineering, and Tufts Medical School. He completed a surgical internship at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and a residency in diagnostic radiology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

He was commissioned a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and served as the director of ultrasound at the former Naval Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia from 1974 to 1976.

Dr. Nisenbaum joined the faculty of Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, where he served from 1976 through 1993. He was head of the Ultrasound Section and acting chairman of Einstein’s Department of Radiology; and president of the medical center’s staff.

He joined the Department of Radiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in 1993 and was chairman of the Department of Medical Imaging at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center from 2001 to 2018.

“He had the longest tenure of [any chairman] since the hospital joined the University of Pennsylvania Health System in 1995,” Penn Presbyterian posted online. “Under his leadership, the department introduced tremendous scientific advances in medical imaging into clinical practice, and greatly expanded its contribution to the hospital’s mission.”

Dr. Nisenbaum’s passion was to bring ultrasound to underserved countries through his volunteer work with the World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology. He took a yearlong sabbatical after leaving Penn Presbyterian to continue that work, and then retired from Penn’s Department of Radiology in 2019 as chairman emeritus.

During his 25 years at Penn, Dr. Nisenbaum served on 19 hospital committees and was a strong proponent of medical education and professional training.

Dr. Nisenbaum received many accolades. Earlier this year, he was recognized with the Peter H. Arger, M.D. Excellence in Medical Student Education Award from the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine. Penn’s Department of Radiology also created the Harvey Nisenbaum Award for Medical Imaging Research at Penn Presbyterian.

The award is aimed at stimulating interest in research. It will be awarded for the first time in 2021.

“Over my career, it has been a privilege to watch many of our trainees become our colleagues, and innovators in their own right," said Dr. Nisenbaum, in acknowledging the award. “It is always a pleasure to read a new, interesting study only to see that the author is someone you had a hand in training.”

Dr. Nisenbaum believed professional societies played an important role in advancing the field of radiology.

He was a member of 15 medical and professional societies and served on 140 committees. He was president of the World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, the Pennsylvania Radiological Society, and the Greater Delaware Valley Ultrasound Society.

As a researcher, Dr. Nisenbaum wrote more than 100 papers, abstracts, and book chapters. He was an investigator on 11 grants and lectured at 50 national and international meetings. He held editorial positions on six radiology journals.

He was instrumental in incorporating ultrasound into medical school curricula.

Dr. Nisenbaum traveled for business and pleasure. He visited 60 countries on six continents. During the trips, he enjoyed hiking and exploring new cultures through art, architecture and food. He had a worldwide network of friends and colleagues.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Sylvia Tymowczak Nisenbaum; a son, Eric Nisenbaum, also a physician; and eight nieces and nephews. A brother and nephew died earlier.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a celebration of life will be held later.

Donations may be made to the Harvey L. Nisenbaum M.D. Memorial Fund for Glioblastoma Research. Checks should be made payable to Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and sent to Penn Medicine Development, Attn: Sheryl Garton, 3535 Market St., Suite 750, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104. Gifts may also be made through