RSNA lures young talent into academia

February 4, 2004

IRIYA program fosters academic research among talented radiologists from abroadWhen young radiologists from all corners of the world -- some just out of residency -- present research papers at major radiological meetings and then publish their work in

IRIYA program fosters academic research among talented radiologists from abroad

When young radiologists from all corners of the world - some just out of residency - present research papers at major radiological meetings and then publish their work in renowned academic journals, the odds are it didn't happen by chance. The RSNA's Introduction to Research for International Young Academics (IRIYA) program may have lent a guiding hand.

After learning through the IRIYA how to conduct clinical research, Dr. Sahar Saleem, a lecturer in radiology at Cairo University in Egypt, presented her work a year later at the 2002 RSNA meeting. Soon afterward, she made an oral presentation at the 2003 European Congress of Radiology. Her work was published in Radiographics and European Radiology. And it was the first time she or anyone from her university had attended either the RSNA meeting or the ECR.

"I benefited a lot from the tips on how to publish a manuscript in Radiology, and understanding the peer review process," Saleem said.

The IRIYA has taken place annually at every RSNA meeting since 2000. The program encourages young radiologists from countries other than the U.S. and Canada to pursue careers in academic radiology, said Doug Dusik, media relations manager for the RSNA.

Each year, the RSNA's Committee on International Relations and Education (CIRE) draws 15 names from a pool of highly qualified applicants. After final approval by the RSNA board of directors, the CIRE provides complimentary registration and a $1000 grant for each recipient's travel expenses.

The 45 participants who have attended the seminar since its creation have come from 28 countries as culturally and geographically disparate as Mongolia, Latvia, and Peru. Individual perspectives on the program's educational goals are as diverse as the attendance roll.

Dr. Ian Tsou, for example, had believed that clinically based studies represented most of what he could accomplish as an academic. The IRIYA program encouraged him to consider such nontraditional research areas as operations, departmental administration, and biomedical informatics.

"Research in these areas goes beyond just increasing knowledge about disease. It contributes to improving the workflow, the quality of care, and the management of resources," said Tsou, a radiologist at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore.

Saleem educated fellow IRIYA attendees about the leading-edge procedures carried out at the 5000-bed Cairo University Hospital.

"I did not feel that I was lagging behind, but I felt that in my department we lacked devoted research works, especially in the most recent advances in radiology," she said.

Young imagers applying to the program should be radiology residents or fellows. Radiologists no more than three years out of training who are starting an academic career or considering one can also apply. A radiology department's chair or training director should nominate the candidate -who must be fluent in English - to the CIRE. The RSNA received 43 nominations last year, Dusik said.

At the 2003 RSNA meeting, the young researchers program included topics ranging from beginning an academic career to scrutinizing the future of imaging research. Dr. Mizuki Nishino, a Japanese research fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said she enjoyed leaping into uncharted territory. Combining academic research, education, and networking with academic radiologists throughout the world added useful insight to her fledgling radiology career, she added.

The RSNA experience helped others, such as Dr. Alain Rabenandrasana from Madagascar, identify gaps in the education and practice of radiology. Language should not be a barrier to young researchers who want to advance their knowledge of radiology in their own countries, he said.

"Way too much talent usually falls though the cracks of language and politics," he said.

Dr. Audun E. Berstad, a radiologist from Oslo, Norway, appreciated the opportunity the IRIYA provided to compare others' techniques with those he uses at home.

Radiologists often have "gut-feelings" about which method or procedure is best in a given situation. The choices, however, are often not scientifically based, Berstad said. Learning different ways to document the clinical effects of introducing new technology, for instance, puts radiologists ahead of the crowd.

"People in other medical fields will take up and use technology or procedures developed by imagers. These physicians are often better at documenting patients' benefits because they work closer to them, and they can also generate revenue," he said.

The number of IRIYA applicants increases every year, according to Dr. Francisco Arredondo, a CIRE member and lecturer. The level of expertise among attendees sometimes reflects the gaps between developed and developing countries, but all of them share the same potential.

"The impact these young people, who are also leaders in the field in their own countries, bring back to their communities is invaluable. They end up building a network of people with a similar vocation throughout the world," Arredondo said.