Newly Formed ESR Supports Radiologists in Education, Research, Politics

April 1, 2007

The European Society of Radiology is now a formal, legally recognized entity. The process of dissolving and unifying the ECR and the European Association of Radiology was lengthy, but the result will be well worth the wait, according to the ESR's founding members.

The European Society of Radiology is now a formal, legally recognized entity. The process of dissolving and unifying the ECR and the European Association of Radiology was lengthy, but the result will be well worth the wait, according to the ESR's founding members. The new "single house of radiology" promises to be a strong professional society that can support the needs of its members and raise the status of radiology.

The decision to overhaul Europe's radiology societies was not a case of change for change's sake. Neither was it instigated by a few leading voices who wanted their 15 minutes of fame.

The pressure for change came from national radiology societies and from the members of the EAR and ECR, according to Prof. Nicholas Gourtsoyiannis, who presided over the ESR from its inception in December 2005 until March 2007.

The ESR not only has its own assembly, board, and president, but it also now has its very own constitution. This was adopted in March by the EAR and ECR general assemblies. A decision to dissolve the EAR and ECR was taken at the same meetings, leaving European radiologists with a single society: the ESR. The final stage will take place in March 2008, when the ESR's new general assembly votes from the floor for its new executive board. Prof. Andy Adam, a professor of interventional radiology at King's College London, will preside over the ESR for the 12 months prior to this democratic election.

Payment of a Euro 10 annual membership fee will entitle any European radiologist to vote or stand for office at the March assembly. ESR members will also get free access to the electronic version of European Radiology and to online teaching resources. Radiologists from outside Europe can join ESR as associate members.

"We are moving from two institutions to a real society with individual members," said Gourtsoyiannis, who is chair of radiology at the University of Crete. "We anticipate that by March 2008 we will have more than 10,000 members."

Members of the existing board have already made great strides in tackling the stated goals of the newly formed society. One of the key aims is the promotion of radiology education. A new European Training Charter for Clinical Radiology, formulated by the ESR and the Union of Medical Specialists, was issued last year. This reiterates the need for a five-year training period, given the increasing body of knowledge that radiologists must now be familiar with.

A dedicated European School of Radiology (ESOR) has also been established to extend teaching resources worldwide and raise standards through hands-on and e-learning initiatives. One such initiative is the Galen project, which will offer foundation courses and interactive workshops to radiologists in Eastern Europe, from Poland down to the Balkans.

"We held the first of these courses in Budapest during December 2006," Gourtsoyiannis said. "The cost was minimal, just Euro 50 per participant, thanks to our industry sponsor. It was fully booked just two days after the initial announcement online."

An exchange program, open to radiologists-in-training across Europe, is also planned. The idea is to grant 12 individuals a three-month scholarship to carry out subspecialty training at a European center of excellence. Areas under consideration include pediatric radiology, ultrasound, and cardiac imaging.

A separate fellowship scheme, sponsored jointly by the ESR and the European Society of Cardiac Radiology, was launched at last month's ECR. Meanwhile, a series of in-house ESOR courses will focus on creating luminaries in key topics such as management and molecular imaging.

The ESOR's educational activities will not be wholly restricted to Europe, though. The AIMS (Advanced Imaging Multimodality Seminars) project, created together with the Chinese Society of Radiology, is establishing twice-yearly courses in China, taught jointly by European and Chinese faculty. A visiting professorship scheme tied to the International Congress of Radiology has also been put in place.

Supporting radiology research is another area that the ESR aims to address. Gourtsoyiannis regards the foundation of the European Institute for Biomedical Imaging Research (EIBIR) as an important part of this mission. The EIBIR has received its first substantial seed grant and has launched a number of activities designed to capitalize on Europe's expertise in medical imaging.

"We have been innovative in Europe since the development of x-rays, yet radiology is uncharted today as a domain of research. So our first task was to get together these fruitful, but fragmented, initiatives to produce a network of research in the biomedical imaging field," he said.

Formation of the EIBIR has already raised the profile of radiology-and the ESR-within the corridors of power in Brussels. The radiology community has been invited to take a greater part in the European Union's latest framework program for research, Gourtsoyiannis said. ESR officials also plan to lobby hard for radiology when political decisions are being made.

The ESR is additionally aiming to stand up for radiologists' interests within the medical community. This does not mean seeking out turf battles, though. Quite the contrary. The society is more interested in turning threats into opportunities. For example, 18 months of discussion between the ESR and the European Association of Nuclear Medicine have resulted in a joint white paper outlining how the communities could best serve patients as hybrid imaging modalities become more common. A public awareness campaign is also planned to highlight the role of radiologists as a key interface between clinicians and patients.

"Imaging is everywhere in modern medicine, from molecular imaging R&D through to image-guided therapy," Gourtsoyiannis said. "This role should no longer be hidden. We need to be upfront and meet our patients, meet the community that we serve."