RSNA changes emphasis to attract global audience

February 18, 2005

The RSNA projected its 2004 meeting as "radiology's global forum," which was more than a catchy slogan. Congress president Dr. Brian C. Lentle was born in Cardiff and trained at the University of Wales, and four doctors from the Republic of Ireland, France, Australia, and England were made honorary members at the meeting. The scientific program was dedicated to Englishman Sir Godfrey Hounsfield, the inventor of CT, who died last August.

The RSNA projected its 2004 meeting as "radiology's global forum," which was more than a catchy slogan. Congress president Dr. Brian C. Lentle was born in Cardiff and trained at the University of Wales, and four doctors from the Republic of Ireland, France, Australia, and England were made honorary members at the meeting. The scientific program was dedicated to Englishman Sir Godfrey Hounsfield, the inventor of CT, who died last August.

The society has not always taken such an international perspective. At previous meetings, many keynote speakers focused on topics such as reimbursement and medicolegal matters, which are of little interest to Europeans and Asians, and the society tended to bestow honors only on North Americans.

Furthermore, during my first RSNA meeting in 1990, I was struck by some attendees' intolerance of foreign accents from the podium. I recall one doctor telling me that speakers without perfect English should present their research only at their own national conferences. He completely overlooked the fact that medical science should transcend borders and that the research might benefit his own patients.

The RSNA's change of tone is a positive step. It might be due in part to the more globally minded officers and board of directors, typified by both Lentle and Dr. Hedvig Hricak, the RSNA's liaison for publications and communications, whose medical training took place in Zagreb and Stockholm. The new approach probably also reflects a growing realization that radiology is increasingly influenced by what happens overseas, as teleradiology threatens to sweep away national boundaries.

Another factor was the cancelations by international attendees prior to the 2001 RSNA meeting, due to security worries after 9/11. The low attendance had a dramatic impact on the society's finances. Finally, the RSNA must compete with the European Congress of Radiology, which continues to grow in professionalism and reputation, as well as with subspecialty conferences.

RSNA officials now realize they cannot take for granted the support of non-North American members. In 2004, 3436 came from Europe, 1932 from Asia-Pacific countries, 645 from South America, 354 from Australasia, and 184 from Africa. North American members still dominate at 30,702, but international doctors account for more than 30% of professional delegates at the RSNA meeting and over 60% of abstract submissions.

Pressures on academic medicine are also increasing. According to an article in the British Medical Journal (2004;329:751-754), academia is failing to carry out its key roles of research, teaching, and patient care. The authors urged academics to develop a plan of action to tackle these problems and stressed the need to demonstrate the economic and social value of academic medicine. Academics should read the Big Picture column in this issue, in which Hans Bloem makes a compelling case for a fee-for-service model in a university setting.

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