RSNA Prez: Radiology’s achievements already profound, but future requires commitment to research

CHICAGO—Radiology must do more to push scientific inquiry and patient-centered care to position itself for the next 100 years, according to the presidential address delivered Nov. 30 by N. Reed Dunnick, MD, that kicked off the 2014 annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Before looking ahead, though, RSNA president Dunnick spent part of his lecture looking back at the last century of radiology, a significant timeframe as this year’s conference marks the 100th annual RSNA meeting.

“Today’s standard of medical care literally would not have been possible without the discoveries and contributions of radiologists over the past 100 years,” he said.

Dunnick stressed the cumulative transformational effect that advancements in imaging modalities have had on medicine. Coupling CT with nuclear medicine, for example, led to immediate success. Ultrasound is currently experiencing a renaissance thanks to ultra-high frame rates, contrast agent improvements and the development of focused-ultrasound therapeutic techniques. And while MRI has already allowed physicians to access new information about structures within the body, the best may be yet to come.

“I believe we are still in the early phases of realizing the full potential of MR imaging and spectroscopy,” said Dunnick.

The next 100 years

Moving forward, there will be a new role for radiology, according to Dunnick. This role will stress predictive, preventive, personalized medicine. Imaging results will evolve from being descriptive to quantitative. “This is our future,” he said.

Bolstering this new paradigm that puts value over volume, RSNA launched the Radiology Cares initiative in 2012. In its first couple years, this initiative has sought to increase the patient-centeredness of radiology because, as Dunnick described, outcomes improve when patients understand their care and receive proactive communication from radiologists.

On the topic of quantitative, predictive medicine, Dunnick emphasized the importance of research, both in terms of developing the next generation of researches and also securing the resources to allow the research to be conducted. Here again RSNA is making an impact with the RSNA Research & Education Foundation, which distributed $3.6 million in grants to 94 investigators in 2014.

The transition that radiology is experiencing today is as important as any in its history, argued Dunnick, who closed by touting the power of RSNA.

“From its origins as a small society with 62 charter members in 1915, the RSNA has grown to become one of the most influential organizations in healthcare. Our reach is global, our impact is profound.”