RSNA Blog: Found at last: Patients first


CHICAGO—I said in yesterday’s blog that I was going to seek out “our patients” among the RSNA vendor exhibits. However, I quickly realized that, while imaging vendors may indeed strive to incorporate patient preferences and concerns into their products, the focus at RSNA is on the needs and desires of radiologists. This makes sense: RSNA is, after all, a conference for radiologists. Enabling radiologists to read studies more efficiently and to better communicate with their referring providers is important to patient care, as is developing machines that produce better images while exposing patients to less radiation. I did see a few cardboard cutouts of what appeared to be happy, healthy, generic “patients” gracing the gargantuan displays of many exhibits, but didn’t find “our patients.” Fair enough.

However, when I snagged a (much coveted) seat outside one of the exhibit halls to rest my feet and started reading Wednesday’s RSNA Daily Bulletin, I was presented with a cornucopia of talks and presentations that focused on “our patients.”

First, of course, was a summary of Dr. Richard Gunderman’s inspirational and timely Annual Oration in Diagnostic Imaging, which he gave on Tuesday. He urged radiologists to get to know the patient behind the image, and to focus on the invisible (patient stories) as well as the visible (the patient’s image). I’m a huge fan of Dr. Gunderman, who got a PhD from University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought (an amazing program - check it out) in addition to his MD. In both his talks and written work, Dr. Gunderman continually challenges the field of radiology and radiologists to think more broadly and deeply about what they do.

I could go on for pages praising Dr. Gunderman, but I won’t. Instead, I want to mention an email my mother sent me yesterday. She had been watching NBC News, and saw a story about a researcher from West Virginia who has used PET/CT to identify physiological evidence of “ chemo brain.” As a breast cancer survivor, my mom had struggled with this phenomenon during her treatment. Therefore, she was very interested in learning more about this research, which Dr. Rachel Lagos presented during an RSNA formal scientific session on Tuesday. My mother is not a healthcare professional; she is one of “our patients” and was thrilled to see the ways that radiologists are investigating issues that impact people’s daily lives.




Dr. Tillack recently completed her PhD in medical anthropology, and is currently in the MD program at the University of California–San Francisco.