Perry Sprawls, Ph.D., PE
Physicist, Engineer, Educator
Emory University Faculty
1960 - 2005

Retirement of Professor Perry Sprawls

 At the end of August, 2005 Perry Sprawls concluded a 45-year tenure on the Emory University Faculty and became Professor Emeritus of Radiology.  On the event of his retirement some of the highlights of the Emory years and beyond are reviewed.
In the Beginning

Innovations in Education
International and the Developing Countries
The Sprawls Educational Foundation
The Sprawls Resources

Awards and Honors
After Emory

In The Beginning
Perry Sprawls was born and grew up on the family farm in Barnwell County, South Carolina. He first graduated from Clemson in 1956 with a degree in physics and a minor in electrical engineering.  He then continued his Clemson education to receive a M/S. in nuclear science and a Ph.D. in bioengineering.  After a short time working at Western Electric on a guided missile project and completing military service he joined the faculty of Emory University.

 The Emory Career
He began  in 1960 in the Department of Physics as an Instructor specializing in nuclear physics.  During that first year three things occurred that were to give direction to his career and personal life.

1. Soon after beginning to teach large physics classes in the traditional lecture room format, he saw the opportunity to develop a variety of technological enhancements to produce more enriched learning environments.  Research and development leading to innovations in the educational process has been a major component of his career that continues today with significant impact at the national and international level.

2.  With a background in nuclear physics, he began to look for applications that would benefit society.  He soon found that opportunity to apply nuclear physics to medicine in the Department of Radiology.  His first summer at Emory was as a research physicist in Radiology and that led to a  full-time Radiology faculty appointment the next year.  This was the beginning of a career in medical physics.

3. In those early days the office next to the physics classroom was occupied by another young instructor and administrative secretary for the English Department staff, Charlotte Williams.  Charlotte and Perry were married on the Emory Campus in 1961.


His early research addressed patient radiation dose issues associated with advances in fluoroscopy.  With a Ph.D. in Bioengineering and graduate study in cardiovascular physiology he was an active research collaborator with the Departments of Surgery and Physiology for many years.  Within Radiology much of his research contributed to the development of mammography as we practice it today.  Of special significance has been his development of mathematical  models of the x-ray imaging process that are used for optimizing procedures.  His development of a method for the computer interpretation of medical images (radionuclide scans) in the 1960s was a first step in this long-time evolution.
In more recent years his research has been devoted to the human learning process, especially applied to medical imaging and physics, resulting in the development of models to optimize and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of educational activities.


For many years Dr. Sprawls provided physics support for x-ray imaging, mammography, etc., at Emory and Grady Hospitals and the Emory Clinics and was closely involved with  the introduction of MRI at Emory.


The greatest career contributions of Dr. Sprawls have been in medical imaging and medical physics education, not only here at Emory but around the world.  At Emory he has developed, directed, and taught in programs at all academic levels including undergraduate, graduate school, medical school, medical post-graduate (residents and fellows), and continuing medical education.

The highly effective Physics of Radiology for Residents program developed and taught by him has been recognized nationally and used as a model for a syllabus by the ACR and AAPM some years ago.  The companion textbooks by Dr. Sprawls are used both nationally and internationally and are now available with open access online:
     Physical Principles of Medical Imaging  at
     Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Principles, Methods, and Techniques at
This textbook resulted from the courses in the Emory Magnetic Resonance Education Center (MREC), developed and directed by Dr. Sprawls that provided the Emory Radiology Faculty with the opportunity to provide high-quality education both to the national and international radiology communities in the early years of MRI

He has had major leadership roles in the educational activities of the professional organizations: AAPM, RSNA, ACR, and SMRI.  He has served as Director for Medical Imaging Continuing Education for the AAPM and as Chair of the committee responsible for the Physics Tracks for the RSNA Refresher Courses.


As a Director of the College on Medical Physics at the International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, sponsored by UNESCO, he provides leadership and classroom instruction for the periodic programs for medical physicists and scientists from most of the developing countries.

Innovations in Education

Throughout his career a major interest has been the processes of learning and teaching and how they could be improved.  This has often been achieved by the application of technology to produce enriched learning environments and to enhance human performance for both learners and teachers.  The fruits of this work that began in the Emory physics classroom in 1960 are now benefiting education around the world, especially in the fields of medical imaging and medical physics.  The Sprawls visuals produced with digital technology are used extensively in printed textbooks, classrooms, and web-based resources to enhance the learning of physics as it applies to medical imaging.  Dr. Sprawls is recognized as an international leader in the process of developing shared and open web-based resources to improve education in all countries.  He is now working with institutions and organizations around the world in the process of re-engineering the educational process .  The desired outcomes are models for more effective and efficient learning activities, ranging from individual courses to the global practice of medical imaging and radiation oncology.  His seminars and classes on the learning and teaching process help faculty apply established principles along with modern technology to increase the effectiveness of educational activities.

The innovative teleteaching system developed by Dr. Sprawls is now used to combine the values of live classroom sessions with web-based resources both in the the Emory curriculum and internationally.

International and the Developing Countries

In the 1980s his career took on a new dimension with a desire to improve medical imaging and medical physics in the developing countries of the world.

A first activity was his development of the Emory Radiology-Xi'an (China) Cooperative Program in Medical Imaging and his serving as an Honorable Professor at Xi'an  Medical University. The resulting innovative program to move a year of medical imaging into the senior year of the medical school curriculum for a select group of students was soon recognized as a model for other Chinese medical universities to address the need for young physicians to enter the specialty of medical imaging. The translation of the Sprawls Physical Principles of Medical Imaging into the Chinese language continues to serve many educational programs in China.  Xi'an Medical University was the location of the technology based Medical Imaging Education Center sponsored by the Sprawls Educational Foundation.  In 2011 he was invited to Xi'an by the University for a series of programs expressing appreciation and honoring him for his over 20 years of work and support of the education activities there.  His effort now is devoted to arranging advanced training opportunities for the radiologists who are graduates of the Emory-Xi'an Cooperative Program.

He has worked onsite with institutions and organizations in many developing countries and through the Sprawls Educational Foundation provides resources for program development and improvement in most of the developing countries of the world.

As a Director of the College on Medical Physics at the International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, sponsored by UNESCO, he provides leadership and classroom instruction for the periodic programs for medical physicists and scientists from most of the developing countries.    

The Sprawls Educational Foundation,
The Foundation was established by the Sprawls family to provide support for the advancement of radiology and imaging science education on a global scope but with a special emphasis on the developing countries of the world.
A major goal is to enrich local educational programs in institutions, especially in the clinical environment, by providing educational opportunities for faculty development and materials and media for the various types of learning activities, ranging from the class/conference room to individual and collaborative study.  This is done directly and in partnership with some organizations that are working to advance the educational process.
The most extensive outreach of the Foundation is the online publication of the Sprawls Resources.

The Sprawls Resources,
The Resources are a comprehensive collection of educational materials and media developed by Dr. Sprawls throughout his career.  In addition to textbook and self-study modules there are extensive visuals created by Dr. Sprawls to support class and conference discussions.
The Resources are provided by the Foundation as an open and free source available to all and are used in most of the countries of the world.

Awards and Honors

1999:The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM)  annual Achievement Award for "his outstanding career achievements in medical physics and contributions to the profession."

2004: The Harold Johns Medal from the International Organization of Medical Physics (representing 77 countries) at their meeting in Sydney, Australia, for "excellence in teaching and contributions to international education."

2005:The Radiology Department established the annual Sprawls Lecture to bring outstanding scientists to Emory for a series of lectures and consultations with the faculty.

2006: The IEEE, the international electrical and electronic institute, presented Dr. Sprawls with it's Achievement Award in Continuing Education   “in recognition of extensive career contributions of continuing education to enhance global  health through the effective utilization of medical imaging technology and the application of science and engineering principles”

2008: The SEAAPM  Jimmy Fenn Lifetime Achievement Award.

2009:Tthe  SEAAPM Best Published Paper award, for Evolving Models for Medical Physics Education and Training: A Global Perspective.

2009: the Emory University Emeritus College selected Dr. Sprawls for recognition as Distinguished Emeritus for his many years of continuing contribution to the medical community.

2010:The AAPM annual Award for Innovations in Medical Physics Education for his work on the development of models and methods for collaborative teaching.

2011:The AAPM annual Award for Innovations in Medical Physics Education for his work on the development of models and methods for clinically-focused physics education.

2012: The IEEE USA Professional Achievement for Individuals For Providing Open and Free Online Engineering Education Resources.

2017: The Clemson Alumni Association Distinguish Service Award.

After Emory

Perry and Charlotte now live in Black Mountain, North Carolina (in the mountains near Asheville) where he works from the office of the Sprawls Educational Foundation.  ( ) 
Their son, Charles Perry Sprawls, lives in New York where he is a classical vocalist with many of the New York choirs such as the New York Choral Artists who sing regularly with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as other choral groups such as Musica Sacra, the Collegiate Chorale, and the Voices of Ascension and has sung with the Metropolitan Opera Chorus.

Perry's recent (after retirement) and current professional activities include:
  • Historian for the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences
  • Re-engineering and development of new and evolving models of the education process to enhance learning environments, on both a local and global basis, through the integration of technology and shared resources.
  • Conducting courses at national and international conferences for faculty development on topics including the function of the human brain for effective learning and the development of effective and efficient educational activities.
  • Directed the development of a major international project to improve health in the developing countries through an enhanced physics and engineering infrastructure. The project was inaugurated at the World Conference of Physics and Sustainable Development, meeting in South Africa in October 2005.
  • Providing open and free educational resources ( ) to enhance medical imaging education on a global basis, with an emphasis on the Developing Countries of the world.
  • Teleteaching medical science and medical physics graduate students in selected institutions
  • Directing a variety of national and international educational programs
  • Consulting Expert to the European Union (EU) Leonardo da Vinci Programme for education development
  • Consultant to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna
  • Co-Director and Faculty, College on Medical Physics, ICTP, Trieste, Italy
  • Academic Director, College on Medical Physics in India 2007
  • Co-Editor, Medical Physics and Engineering Education and Training, 2011
  • Co-Editor, Encylopaedia of Medical Physics.
  • Co-Editor, Medical Physics International Journal

On the non-professional side...

  • Past President, Board of Directors of the Asheville Lyric Opera
  • Ordained Deacon, Sunday School Teacher, and many leadership roles in the Baptist Church.
  • Founding Coordinator of the Barnwell County Virtual Museum
  • Developing online virtual exhibits for the Presbyterian Heritage Center, Montreat, NC.
  • Active in the development of the Class of 1956 Academic Success Center Building at Clemson University (a $12,000,000+ project). The building was opened in 2012 and contains a suite of rooms dedicated to parents, Neva and Perry Sprawls, Sr.
  • Continuing with Charlotte the publication of her father's Williams Translation of the New Testament , ( )
  • Owner and manager of the forestry division of the Sprawls Heritage Farm (in the Sprawls family since 1812) on Sprawls Farm Road, Williston, SC.

On the lighter side and recreation...

  • Mountain hiking
  • Landscaping and gardening
  • Carpentry and restoration
  • Helping families with the preservation of their history and heritage
  • Locating and mapping lost and abandoned cemeteries
  • Working with community museums in the develop of virtual exhibits
  • SCUBA Diving and underwater photography ( )