Plus ça change, as continuity marks new French leadership

December 1, 2006

The French Society of Radiology (SFR) has elected Prof. Philippe Grenier, chair of diagnostic radiology at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, as its new secretary general. Grenier takes over from Prof. Guy Frija, chair of radiology at the European Hospital Georges Pompidou in Paris, who held the position for 12 years. Frija remains on the SFR executive board as the newly elected treasurer.

The French Society of Radiology (SFR) has elected Prof. Philippe Grenier, chair of diagnostic radiology at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, as its new secretary general. Grenier takes over from Prof. Guy Frija, chair of radiology at the European Hospital Georges Pompidou in Paris, who held the position for 12 years. Frija remains on the SFR executive board as the newly elected treasurer.

SFR members can expect a smooth transition of power, according to Grenier, who was formally appointed to his new role on 1 November. No sudden policy changes are planned. He aims to maintain the strength of the society's educational activities, including its annual meeting, the Journées Françaises de Radiologie (JFR), and to continue forging links between bodies representing French radiologists' professional interests.

"I am really the candidate representing continuity," he said. "Prof. Frija remains on the board, and, of course, I will take advantage of his experience and advice, particularly in the professional affairs of the society."

Founded in 1909, the SFR is a not-for-profit scientific organization financed mainly through membership fees. Grants awarded to young radiologists are sourced from the SFR's private sector partners. SFR membership has doubled over the past decade to over 6000 and continues to grow. JFR now attracts about 16,000 delegates, including approximately 2000 from overseas.

Grenier will hold the position of secretary general for four years initially. He may then be elected for an additional four years but no longer, following a change to the SFR statutes.

Frija admits he is not sad to be stepping down after 12 years. He believes that his most important achievement was setting up a system of working groups that allowed the society to provide an efficient evidence-based approach to different issues.

"It is hard work every day. Our discipline is attacked by many others, and we have to be vigilant. We have also faced important regulatory questions," he said. "Today, if some problem has to be addressed, we have the organization in place to give our position."

Incorporating European Union regulatory requirements on radiation protection (Directive 97/43 Euratom) was one such issue. Under Frija's lead, the SFR formed two separate working groups to look at the legislation. This resulted in a technical guidebook on best clinical practices and another that provided guidelines for procedures.

The SFR formed an IT working group during his term of office. The society is represented on the DICOM committee, is active in promoting the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise initiative, and has successfully lobbied the French government to include images in its forthcoming electronic health records system. The SFR provides access to electronic posters, video conferences, and themed lectures on its Web site.

As SFR secretary general, Grenier will become president of the G4, a professional organization founded last year by the SFR, private and public French radiological unions, and the College of Academic Radiologists. The G4 now meets every month to discuss issues affecting all radiology professionals.

"It is very useful to reach a common analysis for given problems in order to have one position in front of the government," Frija said. "Often, there are no relations between private radiologists, public radiologists, and academic researchers."

Grenier would like to formalize the G4's status. All medical professionals in France are now legally obliged to participate in educational activities and acquire a minimum number of CME points. They must also undergo an evaluation of their professional practice every five years, whether in a public hospital or private radiology clinic. The radiology community may benefit if just one agency has responsibility for professional practice assessment, and the G4 has negotiated with the government's health agency, he said.

"My objective is to convince all my colleagues from the unions, from SFR, and from the academic groups to propose a common professional college to evaluate professional practices," he said. "It is a sensitive issue, and I will, of course, have to use diplomacy, but I think it is crucial to have only one voice when you are interacting with the authorities."

JFR will remain a key platform for continuing medical education in France. Content covered at the annual meeting is designed to update radiologists' scientific knowledge and improve their daily practice. For example, the 2006 JFR included a new series of sessions on management issues, as well as lectures on advanced imaging topics such as optical probes and nanotechnology. Grenier is setting up a 12-person committee to oversee further evolution of the JFR program.

"The specialty is always changing. JFR has to adapt itself to those changes, by not just following but also leading. We have to encourage radiologists to transfer these innovations into their practice," he said.