Profile of Tim Pannell, M.D., Class of 1987

From a First Generation College Graduate to a Family of Physicians, Tim Pannell, M.D., Stays True to his Roots

man wearing a black bowtie and tuxedoFor Tim Pannell, M.D., all roads lead home to his family and his upbringing in rural South Carolina. Raised in an idyllic small town just outside Greenville, he is the first in his family to go to college, graduating from Furman University in three years with a chemistry degree. 

Tim didn't initially plan to go to medical school. While many of his friends were applying to medical school, he worked as a chemist at a textile company. He enjoyed the work but knew it wasn't his calling. Inspired by his friends, he began thinking that medicine might be an interesting career, and he took the MCAT and applied to medical school. He was aware medicine might not be the right fit. It was a gamble but, as it turns out, Tim quickly found his passion for helping people.

He applied to the only major medical school in his home state, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Acceptance to the school worked out for Tim, as he benefited from in-state tuition and was close to home. 

He started medical school to become a surgeon, but his plans changed when introduced to interventional radiology during his third year. In the mid-80s, interventional radiology was in its infancy. "It was a new and exciting specialty with innovative technology, but it also offered a better lifestyle. This mattered to me because I had recently met a young woman in one of my classes who subsequently became my wife." Tammy was also a medical student at MUSC pursuing internal medicine.

Hero photo features Trent, Tyler and Tim Pannell. Photo above features Dr. Tim Pannell. Photos courtesy Tim Pannell, M.D. 

VCU School of Medicine, Fit for a Couples Match

woman and man standing in front of the leaning tower of Pisa in ItalyAfter medical school, Tim and Tammy did a couples match in radiology and internal medicine, interviewing at ten schools, one being the VCU School of Medicine. "We explored the facilities and met the faculty. Even though Richmond was foreign to us, we both loved the place and the people. I remember Tammy saying that everyone had smiles on their faces and seemed to be happy. That goes a long way and it made the difference for us. We matched and I entered my radiology residency and Tammy in internal medicine."

Tammy had an Air Force scholarship for medical school so when she finished her residency she went on active duty for three years stationed in Sumter, SC. Tim had one year of radiology residency remaining when Tammy left for service. It was a challenge, but they kept up a long-distance relationship until his graduation when he was finally able to join Tammy in Sumter.

Photo features Tammy and Dr. Tim Pannell in Italy, 2023. Courtesy Tim Pannell, M.D.

Finding a Lifelong Career, Starting a Family in Sumter 

After completing his radiology residency, Tim joined a small private practice of four radiologists in Sumter. He didn't know it at the time, but he would stay with this radiology group his entire career.

"I joined three other radiologists who were good people. It was an immediate fit. We love our work and respect each other, and working in Sumter is special. Sumter is a small, family-oriented town with an exceptional quality of life. I couldn't ask for anything more."

Tammy was nearing the end of her Air Force commitment when they started their family with the birth of their first son, Trent. At this time, the senior partner in his radiology practice was retiring. Tim contacted Bert Parker, Jr., MD, a good friend from the VCU Radiology Residency Program, to see if he would be interested in joining the practice. Bert soon joined the practice and remained good friends with Tim.

A year later, Tim and Tammy Pannell welcomed their second son, Tyler. Tammy decided it was a perfect time to leave her career to parent full-time, which continues to reward the family.

Today, when Tim is not working, you will find him enjoying his favorite pastimes with family and friends, including traveling, golfing, fishing, and hunting.

Pannell Family in Costa Rica

Three men on a boat each holding large ocean fishTim Pannell with his wife and two sons, Trent and Tyler, in Costa Rica, 2013. Photo courtesy Tim Pannell, M.D.

A Strategic Merger Brings Balance, Better Care

Tim's private practice operated for close to 30 years before they merged with Prisma Health, South Carolina's largest private, non-profit healthcare system. A strategic move that Tim summarizes, "Our practice was growing 7 to 10 percent annually and we stayed at four radiologists. The workload increased so much that we couldn't strike a healthy career-family balance. It was ideal; the merger meant helping more patients while regaining balance."

Prisma Health has nearly 100 radiologists with a range of subspecialties, including neuroradiology, interventional radiology, and neuro-interventional radiology, as Tim's group provided the much-needed broader spectrum skills of general radiology, which resulted in providing patients with an exceptional quality of care throughout the state. The merger provided both groups with an immense benefit.

First Generation to First Legacy for VCU Radiology

VCU Radiology, in existence since the late 1800s, finds its first legacy with Drs. Tim and Trent Pannell, the duo are both radiologists who are also both alumni of the residency program. 

Trent followed closely in his father's footsteps attending Furman University and then MUSC. It was halfway through medical school when Trent decided to pursue radiology, and he told his parents he wanted to go to VCU. "I wasn't about to argue with him," says Tim. "I was ecstatic when Trent matched into the VCU Radiology Residency Program."
White coat portrait of Jonathan Pannell M.D.
Since his graduation, Tim has maintained an active relationship with his residency class, but in recent years, during his son's time as a resident; he has reconnected with the Radiology Department, a relationship that brings great fulfillment to Tim.

"My dad is an incredible person, and it has been a blessing to follow in his footsteps at a residency program that provides such great training," says Trent Pannell, M.D.

Trent is graduating from the residency program this summer with plans to stay at VCU as an MSK fellow. Trent's younger brother Tyler is also pursuing a career in medicine and is currently an Ophthalmology resident at LSU.

"Neither my wife nor I encouraged or discouraged our sons from doing medicine. We only wanted them to be happy. The people they are today are their doing, drive, and passion. They are good people who are healthy and happy and love what they do. We cannot ask for anything more," says Tim.

Classmates Enjoy 2023 VCU Radiology Residency Reunion

Four male radiology alumni in button up shirts standing together smiling

Photo features from left to right, Drs. Steve Hall, Tim Pannell, Bert Parker, and Robert Bulas during the 2023 VCU Radiology reunion in Richmond, VA. Photo courtesy Robert Bulas, M.D.

Meaningful Memories from Residency

Tim remembers the class ahead of him being, "so smart, possessing an infinite amount of knowledge. I had so much respect for them." It didn't take long for him to be one of those radiology residents; knowledgeable, confident, and caring.

Tim found all the faculty and attending physicians to be exceptional. He does recall a few standouts, including Fred Laine, M.D., for his teaching of neuroradiology; Jaime Tisnado, M.D., for his practical interventional techniques; and Mary Ann Turner, M.D., for her biliary intervention training.

When asked about a favorite moment during residency, Tim's sense of humor shines through, "My favorite memory is also my most memorable and stressful one. I remember Dr. Buck Brewer quizzing me during one of our noon conferences. He showed us an ultrasound of a finger with a splinter in it. I didn't even know you could ultrasound a finger so I had no idea what body part I was looking at. There I was on stage for what felt like an eternity but was probably five minutes. I needed waders for the puddle of sweat that had somehow formed around my feet! What a mess!" To this day, Tim laughs at this moment and admires Dr. Brewer's passion for teaching.

"We were immersed in the learning: from hands-on experience to case studies. Over the four years, we consumed radiology. The environment was enriching and supportive. The faculty wanted to teach us and we wanted to learn," adds Tim. "What once amazed me was now in my wheelhouse. My time at VCU was some of the best years of my life." 

Outdoor Sports with Friends and Family

Five men in camouflage clothes sitting on a trailer with ducks and duck decoys and a 3-legged tan dog sitting in front

From left to right, Tyler, Tim and Trent Pannell, Bert Parker with one of his son's, Trey Parker, and Sally the amazing 3-legged hunting dog in Mississippi hunting ducks, 2023.

Photo courtesy Tim Pannell, M.D.

Advice for Residents, Work With Friends

Tim doesn't have a cautionary tale. Instead, he shares a message to celebrate relationships. His relationships with his partners are a big part of his passion for work, "I can only speak from experience. I love the people I work with and I love going to work. If there was a CT channel on TV, I’d watch it when I got home from work."

Tim advises medical students, residents, and new radiologists to choose a place to work based on the people. He believes working with people who love what they do and respect each other is important. Tim says, "My partners over all these years are my best friends. They are people I call on when I need help, and I'm happy to support them when they're in need." 

Tim adds, "During residency, my classmates were a huge part of my learning and experience at VCU. It is the reason I stay in touch with so many of them. In fact, one is a partner in my practice, and I go hunting with another and golfing with yet another. I'm always interested in catching up with everyone. I mean it's amazing after all these years."

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