Strickland proposes change of approach for European society

December 1, 2007

The European Society of Radiology is already obsolete. To survive, it must open its doors to skilled clinical imaging professionals trained in other medical specialties and change its name to the European Society of Imaging, according to Dr. Nicola Strickland, chair of the Management in Radiology organizing committee.

The European Society of Radiology is already obsolete. To survive, it must open its doors to skilled clinical imaging professionals trained in other medical specialties and change its name to the European Society of Imaging, according to Dr. Nicola Strickland, chair of the Management in Radiology organizing committee.

The distinctions between medical specialties are breaking down as clinical disciplines become ever more narrowly focused, and it is no longer feasible for radiologists to simply develop expertise in a single modality or specific body part, she told delegates during October's MIR congress in Oxford, U.K. They should look to improve their skills in whole-body imaging, especially the renal tract and cardiovascular and pulmonary systems.

She pointed out that improvements in the care of cancer patients have been achieved through the introduction of multidisciplinary team meetings to review treatment options and assess progress. A similar approach is becoming increasingly common in the management of patients with other conditions, and this trend is having a growing impact on radiology.

Imaging skills are fundamental to decisions made during the treatment of many medical conditions, but this key role need not remain the exclusive territory of the ESR's current membership, said Strickland, who is based at London's Hammersmith Hospital. Radiologists can justify their existence only by adding value to the management of their patients by being better at the interpretation of clinical images than the other members of the medical team.

Any practitioner working within a specific clinical area is capable of developing image interpretation skills that match those of a general radiologist, therefore it makes sense to allow medical colleagues to advance their skills together. A modular training system, perhaps based on that introduced by the U.K. Royal College of Radiologists, should be available to all those working within a particular subspecialty, she said. The ESR can take the lead in establishing joint programs, thereby maintaining control over the process and directing the quality and content of the training.

Without such changes, Strickland fears that the traditional radiological societies will become increasingly irrelevant to the working lives of its members. Neuroradiologists, for example, may find that they have more in common with neurologists and neurosurgeons than with fellow radiologists working on other body systems. Allowing doctors trained in other medical disciplines to become members of the ESR would enhance the reputation and influence of the organization, although this would necessitate a new name.

"We cannot keep them out. We need to make them think of themselves as imagers and encourage them to take specialist imaging examinations in their area of interest," Strickland said. "I would argue that there is no alternative. Radiology as a discipline will fragment and fall apart if we don't set these standards and form ourselves into a college of imagers."