“Reading film is similar to when you’re playing on offense,” Malone said. “You’re using the image to figure out what is abnormal that could be part of the disease process. It’s pattern recognition and understanding what’s irregular in this image of the physiology. Football is a very mental game with all of the analysis — like the percentage of plays a team will run on the goal line. You’re gathering all the data to make a decision on the best offense. We have that same goal when reading an MRI.”
A native of Huntsville, Malone began his football career at Auburn in 1991 under Coach Pat Dye and transitioned with the team the following year when Terry Bowden took the helm. The talented tight end was sidelined during pre-season practice when he suffered a bruised kidney, a traumatic and potentially recurring injury.
Following medical advice, Malone left the gridiron and focused on engineering, earning his B.A. in electrical engineering followed by a master’s degree. In the process, he realized his fascination with the medical component of imaging.
“I went into medicine backwards from an engineering perspective,” Malone said. He applied at Case Western Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, while considering the U.S. Air Force as an alternative career.
“I prayed about it and decided that if I got in, I would get my PhD or would go into the air force and become an officer in scientific research,” Malone said. “I got into Case Western, and it was decided.”
After receiving his MD in 2004, Malone went on to Duke University Medical Center for his medical internship, radiology residency and musculoskeletal fellowship. In 2010, he was ready to follow his dream of gaining credentials and taking his talent back home.
“I wanted to get the best training I could and bring it right back home to Huntsville,” Malone said. “Now I work with a wonderful group dedicated to medicine and highly trained. We have the who’s who of medical professionals at Radiology of Huntsville, which is unique for an area the size of Huntsville. It’s a progressive practice, and we have a team approach.”
As a musculoskeletal specialist, Malone handles MRIs and joint imaging, which keeps him connected to sports.
“It’s cool that I work with most of the sports medicine physicians,” he said. “I get to read the images and stay in touch with sports. I do a lot of injections for orthopedics, and with my background, I’m able to tell the patients about exercises and stretches they can do to treat ailments they have.”
Malone is board certified in diagnostic radiology by the American Board of Radiology, a field often underrated by patients.
“I’ve learned that many people don’t understand what radiologists do,” Malone said. “We’re an integral part of the health care system. We look at ourselves as the doctor’s doctor. It’s always great to have one of the physicians phone us and say, ‘That’s a really nice call.’ You know your opinion is valued, and that’s humbling and satisfying.”
While Malone is able to compare radiology to football, the stats in sports bear no comparison to those relied upon by the medical profession.
“On a football field, if you have a 60 percent pass completion, that’s not so bad, but in the medical world, that’s not going to work,” Malone said. “We have to be at less than one percent. The technology in radiology keeps evolving, and I like to keep pace with it.”
Malone says he counts his blessings, particularly his wife, Jennifer, “the missing piece in my life.” The two were married in 2012.
“When we were in high school, she wouldn’t even give me her phone number,” he said. “Years later, I ran a reverse and got her number from someone else. We really hit it off. She has her own business, the Lofty Boutique. Having her in my life with a really secure relationship has been awesome.”
Returning to his home also has means giving back to the community where he serves on the board of the Downtown Rescue Mission. The 6’7” athlete, who recalls when he was too small to play backyard football with his brothers, makes time to throw the ball around with his two sons.
“It’s good to be home again,” Malone said. “I wanted to come back to the place I felt I could have the most influence. I’m in a great place in life.”