Celebrating Radiology

Friday the 8th of November has been designated as the International Day of Radiology ( http://www.internationaldayofradiology.com ). It was on this day in 1895 that Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered X-rays. #IDOR2013 represents an opportunity to recognize the tremendous contribution to society attributable to this discovery and subsequent imaging innovations. With concerns over the rising costs of healthcare and radiation risk looming in patients’ minds it can be easy to forget the innumerable ways in which imaging has improved all our lives.

The occasion is also making me reflect on the reasons I chose a career as a radiologist and why I still love the clinical part of my job. As a medical student, I spent one of my summers working as a nurses’ aide on a surgical ward at East Birmingham Hospital (now Birmingham Heartlands Hospital) in the British Midlands. The experience of performing the tasks of intimate patient care, washing and changing, as well as my relative invisibility to the often aloof medical team taught me lessons I have never forgotten. The nursing staff was very kind and tried to make sure I also learned as many relevant lessons as possible for my future career. As such I was often dispatched to “X-Ray” to accompany patients. It quickly became apparent to me that the answers to the patients’ clinical problems often materialized in the imaging department. Add to that my love of anatomy and my future pathway was clear.

My training in radiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center was superb. I came from Ireland where the hospital at which I did my internship did not

even have a functioning CT scanner.  Arriving in Pittsburgh I was wide-eyed to see the multiple high tech machines whirring 24 hours a day providing vital information as Dr Tom Starzl and his team transplanted livers, small bowels and even animal organs giving people a second chance at life.

When it came time to choose a fellowship I realized that for me, it was important to combine imaging with patient contact as much as possible so I pursued a women’s imaging fellowship with Dr. Dan Kopans at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Again I saw how imaging, specifically the early detection of breast cancer, could be lifesaving.

These are challenging times for radiologists. We have been seen as contributing to the problem of increasing healthcare costs and as too wedded to a payment system that rewards volume but is neutral on value. My role as the American College of Radiology’s Economics Commission Chair has provided me with the opportunity to help turn around that misperception. I am so proud to be part of our Imaging 3.0 initiative (http://www.acr.org/Advocacy/Economics-Health-Policy/Imaging-3) that seeks to place radiologists right where they belong, at the center of the delivery of high value care. It’s a place that has always been clear to me and the International Day of Radiology is a great way to celebrate who we are as a specialty.