Preston Manasseh Hickey was one of seven children of Reverend Manasseh and Sarah Ann (Bush) Hickey. He was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan on December 3 1865. He attended public schools in Detroit and graduated from Old Central High School. He studied at the University of Michigan and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1888. At the Detroit College of Medicine (now Wayne State University), he was notably mentored by Drs. McGraw, Jennings and Shurly and received his MD in 1892.
Immediately upon graduation, he began practice in pathology and laryngology in Detroit, practicing at Harper, Children’s and Receiving Hospitals. Interest in radiology stemmed from his skills as an accomplished amateur photographer. He along with Dr Shurly purchased one of the first x-ray machines in Michigan and used it for diagnosis of maladies of the paranasal sinuses and chest. He was recognized as an outstanding clinician and gained international recognition in Radiology. Hickey remained in Detroit until 1922 when he succeeded James G. Van Zwaluwenburg as chairman of Radiology at the University of Michigan.
Hickey was always interested in education. Early on he taught biology. He was professor of pathology, laryngology at Detroit College of Medicine and Surgery. During World War I, he set up specialty schools in radiology to train imaging personnel and served as chief consultant radiologist for the American Expeditionary Corps.
Preston Hickey was one of the founding members of the Roentgen Society of the United States in 1900. However, non-physician electrotherapists and manufacturers in the Society undermined the medical credibility. With Hickey’s influence, the organization aligned with the AMA and reformed the group as the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS), expelling unqualified members. Hickey served as the first editor of the Society’s journal, American Quarterly of Roentgenology which eventually became he American Journal of Roentgenology and Radium Therapy, from 1906 until 1916.
His many achievements have added luster and prestige to the profession. Hickey was president of the ARRS in 1907 and American College of Radiology in 1928. He was responsible for the terms “roentgenology”, “roentgenogram” and “radiograph”. He was instrumental in standardizing radiographic nomenclature and report structure – he required applicants to submit 100 reports for review to assure quality prior to admission to the ARRS. He pioneered post-mortem imaging, orthogonal views, fluoroscopy of the airway, chest and gastrointestinal tract, and techniques to decrease scatter radiation (Hickey Cone). He showed the benefits of interpreting from transillumination of negative photographic plates rather than the positive paper prints. Hickey recognized the need for radiation protection, producing the first radiation safety report in 1922 – interestingly, he did not suffer any ill effects of the invisible ray.
Preston Hickey married Grace Maley on November 3, 1897. They had three children – Lucille Virginia, Walter Preston and Guy Ransome. His favorite hobby was photography but he also was an avid boater, golfer, and aviator.
Hickey was known as an excellent educator and administrator. When the University of Michigan Hospital on Ann Street was built, he expanded the footprint of Radiology, added equipment and personnel, established interdepartmental conferences, and enhanced undergraduate and postgraduate training. His enthusiasm for medicine and radiology was contagious. His students, assistants and colleagues referred to him as “Pops” Hickey because of his kindness. Despite ill health late in life, Dr. Hickey continued to teach and administrate; he was quoted “Chronic disease limits one’s capacity but work in moderation requires less energy than lying in bed thinking of one’s illness”. He died on October 30, 1930 at the age of 65 of a coronary thrombus.
The Radiological Society of North America awarded Hickey the Gold Medal for his outstanding contributions in 1926. The Wayne County Medical Society and the Detroit X-ray Society (predecessor of the Michigan Radiological Society) commemorated his legacy with the Hickey Lecture which has continued to this day.
“The development of the science and art of roentgenology has necessarily been influenced by his unbounded energy, capacity for work, earnest endeavor, mechanical genius and skill in the application of medicine” (American Journal of Roentgenology and Radium Therapy, Vol IV, 1917 upon Hickey’s resignation as editor).