RSNA 2017: Final thoughts with RSNA President Richard Ehman, MD

As another RSNA annual meeting came to a close Nov. 30, more than 55,000 people stepped foot inside Chicago's McCormick Place, which was center of the radiology and health imaging industries hub since the show opened Nov. 26.  

RSNA members, committee members and student fellows from 144 different countries have encountered the latest innovative findings and technology in radiology and health imaging.

Health Imaging had an opportunity to talk with RSNA President Richard Ehman, MD, professor of radiology and Blanche R. & Richard J. Erlanger Professor of Medical Research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to discuss this year's annual meeting, which wrapped up Nov. 30 in Chicago. 

Health Imaging: What do you think was unique about RSNA 2017?  

Richard Ehman, MD: At this year's meeting, the theme was "Explore. Invent. Transform." This year the RSNA provided travel awards to more than 400 young researchers who attended the meeting. This year, we featured machine learning as a major focus. Another big topic was 3D printing, so we had a showcase dedicated to that developing technology. We had an interesting new event on Thursday that we called the "Fast Five" sessions, which featured speakers giving five-minute talks. Each year, we have people from other countries feature the science, technology and imaging. This year, Columbia and Israel were featured. Additionally, about 25 percent of the meetings could be viewed remotely online through virtual meetings.

In your opening address, you said, "The most important opportunity now before us it to reinvent radiology." Can you elaborate on this statement?  

I think it starts with recognizing that imaging has had this incredible, extraordinary impact on healthcare. But then I reflected upon how that happened, why do we have these advances, where do they come from. The interesting thing is, and something we don't talk about very often, that these advances have almost always been inventions. Radiology is a specialty of medicine that is based on a singular invention and discovery. That process of invention has continued all throughout history. Many of the major advances that we've had in radiology have been so profoundly effective on patient care because of inventions. I reflected on where those inventions came from. Our science (radiology) and our investigators are the people who brought to medicine the physical sciences, mathematics and engineering.

During your career with RSNA and prior, in what ways have you seen radiology evolve over time?  

When I was in medical school in the mid '70s, at that time that was just before the wide introduction of computed tomography. We had some basic forms of ultrasound imaging, but we didn't have CT or MRI. The interesting thing is that medicine has been changed so dramatically by those technologies that most physicians would have a hard time imagining practicing without having access to them. For example, back in the mid '70s if you had abdominal pain and they thought it might be due to inflammation of the pancreas, the diagnostic produces would be to have an operation or exploratory surgery. That was true in many areas of medicine. Even though we still have the term 'exploratory surgery,' it is almost non-existent now. We know beforehand because of these advances in imaging.

What is beneficial about being a member of the RSNA?  

I always tell people that RSNA is radiology in full force. If you want see the whole of radiology and all of its ramifications, RSNA's annual meetings are the events to go to. RSNA is an organization that is focused on advancing the care for our patients by focusing on education and science. As an organization on a worldwide basis, it does so many good things for the community of radiology and the patients we serve.