In Memoriam: Aaron Perry Sanders


by Kai McCormack

Aaron Perry Sanders, MS, PhD, Duke University radiology professor emeritus, passed away on 7 December 2007 in his Raleigh, North Carolina, home at the age of 83. Dr. Sanders was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and received his undergraduate degree from Texas Western University and his graduate degrees from the University of Rochester and the University of North Carolina. Sanders began his career as an associate health physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1951. In 1953 he transitioned to Duke University Medical Center as the founding director of the Radioisotope Laboratory, currently the Division of Nuclear Medicine. While directing the Radioisotope Lab, he became the first radiation safety officer at Duke, and he established the radiation safety office in 1961. In 1965 he became the founding director of the Division of Radiation Biology, a position he filled until his retirement in 1983. During his career, Sanders earned a Reactor Operator License from the Atomic Energy Commission/Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and he served as chairman of the North Carolina Radiation Protection Commission. He also served as a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Argentina for two years.

Sanders was instrumental in creating an active research and clinical program during his 31 years at Duke. His scientific interests and work included studies exploring various aspects of intestinal absorption, particularly fat absorption, cerebral metabolism, and the effects of hyperbaric oxygenation in animals and humans. He authored or coauthored more than 90 peer-reviewed professional articles in a wide selection of journals including Science, New England Journal of Medicine, and Radiology. He was very active in many professional societies, including the Health Physics Society, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, the Radiation Research Society, and the Society for Nuclear Medicine.

In 1984, after his retirement from Duke University, Sanders accepted an assignment in Saudi Arabia, where he chaired the Biomedical Physics Department at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh. He returned to the United States in 1986 to spend his time reading, traveling, and enjoying his family. During his retirement he volunteered his time teaching high school science classes, and he was very involved in church activities. Throughout his life, Aaron instilled a sense of curiosity in his four children and supported all of them in their pursuits of advanced degrees. He is survived by his four children, Dr. Mardy Ireland, Dr. James Sanders, Dr. Kai McCormack, and Ms. Julie Mitchel, as well as two grandchildren, Natalie Jacome Salling and James Elijah McClure Sanders.