Visiting professor program responds to needs of host country

July 14, 2003

Last summer, Dr. Maria Schmidt, an assistant professor of radiology at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, taught mammography technologists at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva, Fiji, how to position patients for standard mammography and

Last summer, Dr. Maria Schmidt, an assistant professor of radiology at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, taught mammography technologists at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva, Fiji, how to position patients for standard mammography and perform quality control. The intent was to maximize the use of the only mammography unit on the island nation of more than one million people.

Dr. George Taylor, chair of radiology at Children's Hospital in Boston, taught medical residents in Fiji and New Zealand about basic physiology, congenital heart disease, and imaging solid organ injuries in pediatric trauma patients.

Dr. James J. Abrahams, chief of ear, nose, and throat radiology at Yale University, spoke at the National Congress of Radiology in Guatemala this spring. He also gave informal talks to radiology residents in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango about imaging the head and neck, brain, and spine and recognizing pathology on CT and MR images.

And Dr. Marc Gollub, a radiologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, instructed Guatemalan radiologists and radiology residents about imaging cancer in the gastrointestinal tract.

The U.S. radiologists were also eager students of radiology practice in the South Pacific and Central America. Taylor and Schmidt learned that the only mammography unit on Fiji operates two afternoons a week, and women with breast masses have to wait three months for a mammogram. They discovered that, in addition to the solo mammography unit, Fiji has a 13-year-old CT scanner, an ultrasound machine, and 10 radiologists in the entire country.

Abrahams and Gollub found that Guatemala has only 20 CT scanners and a handful of MR machines. They also learned that, with no access to fluoroscopy, Guatemalan radiologists skillfully reposition patients until the barium is just right for an x-ray examination of the gastrointestinal tract.

The radiologists are members of the international visiting professors program of the RSNA, an educational exchange that sends two to six teams of imaging instructors from North America every year to teach radiologists, radiology residents, and technologists in their own imaging suites, using their standard equipment.

The visiting professor program began in 1986 when the RSNA board realized that radiology training was becoming increasingly difficult to perform in some nations. Over the years, it has sent teams of two to three physicians to Kingston, Jamaica; Karachi, Pakistan; Vellore, India; Santiago, Chile; Bangkok, Thailand; Monterrey, Mexico; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Quito, Ecuador; Damascus, Syria; Ankara, Turkey; Budapest, Hungary; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Each RSNA visiting professor team responds to the needs of the host country. During a two-week stint, they lecture at a national or international meeting sponsored by the host country and conduct symposia, present case studies, and read films in specific fields of interest to radiologists and radiology residents at two or three local hospitals.

Because radiologists in most of the developing world are scarce, they have to become highly capable generalists, Taylor said. The RSNA's visiting professor program provides an introduction to radiology subspecialties with the hope of bringing a more in-depth level of expertise in specialized areas and the beginning a long-term interaction between North American and distant radiology colleagues.