Army radiologist awarded for spotting softball-size tumor

TACOMA, Wash. — Maj. John Wriggins, an Army Radiologist at Madigan Hospital, will receive the Meritorious Service Medal next week for outstanding achievement after he successfully spotted a cancerous tumor in a patient's brain that was the size of a softball, sources confirmed today.

“Madigan’s radiology department has been having problems in recent years making accurate diagnoses, so this is a sign of things moving in the right direction for that department,” explained Peter Cruz, a retired colonel and now military healthcare analyst.

Wriggins examined an MRI performed on the brain of a soldier who had complained of seizures and loss of coordination over the previous year.

With Wriggins’ promotion board for lieutenant colonel coming up in just six months, this award not only is a career plus for the soldier, but might have collateral benefits for his chain of command as well.

Col. Muldoon Smithers, Chief of Radiology at Madigan and Wriggins’ senior rater told reporters: “An award like this is just that extra piece that can go into an officer’s record that goes in front of the board. It kind of takes the pressure off me as a his senior rater in terms of having to put just the right magic language in the evaluation. So it’s really a big win for the whole team.”

Unfortunately, because of the delay in getting the soldier an MRI, the tumor is too large for surgery to be an option, defense officials said. The patient has an approximately 6-month life expectancy.

But Smithers points out that this delay was not the fault of his department.

“Unfortunately, the primary care team took about a year to refer the patient to the Neurology and Radiology teams. For the first little bit they thought it was a virus or he was possibly malingering.”

But, as Smithers points out, there there are still benefits to the patient resulting from Maj. Wriggins’ discovery.

“By identifying the issue and the life expectancy, the soldier has a chance to potentially out-process from the Army prior to loss of life, and spend that valuable family time over the next six months. Having this diagnosis might help expedite things with the MEB and Transition Office folks.”

“Maj. Wriggins just elevated his performance to another level. It’s the sort of thing that really makes you reflect on professionalism and leadership,” Smithers concluded.