Charlene Sennett, MD, 1952-2015

Charlene Sennett, MD, 1952-2015

March 26, 2015

Charlene Sennett, MD, an associate professor of radiology at the University of Chicago Medicine and a highly respected clinical specialist in breast imaging, died at the medical center on March 23, 2015, after months of illness. She suffered a stroke while awaiting a heart transplant.

Sennett, 62, was well known throughout the Chicago area as a thoughtful and talented clinician, dedicated educator and fierce advocate for her patients.

"She devoted her professional life to patient care," said Gillian Newstead, MD, director of global breast imaging at the University. "She was diligent in her work. She inspired many residents to become breast-imaging specialists."

"No one was happier than Charlene when an early cancer diagnosis led to a good patient outcome," said colleague Robert Schmidt, MD, professor emeritus of radiology. "But whenever she received a compliment she would brush it off, saying 'I will try to do better next time.'"

Sennett was a co-author of multiple studies focused on the acquisition and computer-aided analysis of diagnostic images. She contributed to scientific presentations, invited lectures, publications and collaborative grant projects, all focused on breast cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis and therapy. She was a principal or co-investigator on many studies evaluating new breast cancer imaging techniques or efforts to combine multiple imaging and diagnostic technologies, such as ultrasound, mammography and MRI.

"She was an exceptional doctor and person," said Greg Karczmar, PhD, professor of radiology and director of magnetic resonance imaging research at the University of Chicago. "She was wonderful with patients—kind, helpful, conscientious and sweet. But she also shared her extraordinary expertise on clinical breast imaging with the research team. When she spoke, we paid attention."
Sennett was an effective and popular teacher for medical students, radiology residents, research fellows and established physicians. From 2005 to 2013, she helped train 18 clinical and research fellows, four of whom are now faculty members at the University. She was a frequent guest speaker at University of Chicago continuing medical education events.

"She was a great clinical collaborator, capable and hardworking, polite yet clearly direct," said Maryellen Giger, PhD, the A.N. Pritzker Professor in the Department of Radiology and the Committee on Medical Physics, and director of the Biological Science Division's Imaging Research Institute. "She made sure that the breast-imaging service was on top of the national quality standards—a demanding task—but was always willing to take time to help the medical-physics students and her research-oriented colleagues understand how their work intersected with clinical care."

Born September 25, 1952, in Crawfordsville, Ind., Charlene Annette Sennett studied to become a nurse at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. She earned her BS in nursing with "high distinction," followed by a, MS in cardiopulmonary physiology from the University of Washington in 1977.

She practiced as a nurse for several years, and continued to work as a nurse in an acute cardiovascular unit while attending medical school at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, where she won awards for "greatest scholarly attitude in medicine" and for "academic achievement." She graduated in 1986 with "outstanding distinction." She came to the University of Chicago as a resident that summer and served as chief resident in 1989-90.

Colleagues noted that her training and clinical work as a nurse prepared her well for a central role in patient care.

After her residency, she spent 11 years as a staff radiologist with a private group at St. Francis Hospital in Blue Island, IL. She returned to the University of Chicago in 2002 as an assistant professor of radiology. She was promoted to associate professor in 2011, and served as interim section chief of breast imaging from 2011 through 2014. During that time, her team was designated a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.

Sennett is survived by her husband, H. Rodney Holmes, PhD; their daughter, Robin Holmes, MD; and son, Kyle. A service is planned for 3:30 pm, EST, Saturday, March 28, at the Family and Friends Funeral Home, 9700 North State Road 55, Wingate, Ind. Details about the funeral arrangements can be viewed at: The family has requested, in lieu of flowers or gifts, that donations be made to