The Missing Link

reduced turkey neck and 8 bit

This post was contributed by Bruce J. Hillman, MD, FACR, Professor of Radiology and Medical Imaging and Public Health Sciences, the University of Virginia and founding editor of the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR)

Having spent the past sixteen years helping found the JACR and overseeing its development – not to mention eight additional years as editor-in-chief of two other radiology journals – I feel qualified to speak to the joys and occasional miseries of a career in medical journalism. On the plus side, there is no such thing as a journalistic emergency. Journal editors sleep soundly and without interruption. I like that I am the first person to know new things. I learn from the manuscripts submitted to the Journal about important advances and the creative ponderings of some of the best radiology has to offer. I would enjoy this aspect of being an editor even more if I weren’t ethically bound not to tell a soul about what I know. Finally, guiding JACR gave me an expansive, monthly pulpit from which to expound on the issues of the day.

Of course, no job is perfect. Even editing a medical journal has its downsides. Most of these are petty and not worth mentioning. One thing that does chronically bother me, however, is how little recognition our specialty grants to successful researchers, even those whose research and writings expand the horizons of our specialty. Over the roughly twenty-five years I’ve been involved in American College of Radiology (ACR) leadership, member surveys have consistently shown that what members value most is the ACR’s successes in government relations and economics. Members tend to rank research in the lowest third, and occasionally at the very bottom, in their appreciation of the various College activities.

What survey respondents overlook is that no matter how persuasive our arguments to government regulatory and reimbursement agencies, without supportive research our efforts would be doomed from the outset. Consider the answers to the following rhetorical questions:

  • Would there be reimbursement for PET imaging in cancer without the National Oncologic PET Registry (NOPR)?
  • CT lung cancer screening, if not for the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST)?
  • CT colonography without the National CT Colonography Trial?
  • How many exams, worth how much in billings, did just these few exemplary research studies add to our practices?
  • Who designed and led these research efforts? And again, these are just a few of the many researchers whose accomplishments have contributed to the vibrancy of our specialty.

Like a shark, radiology must keep swimming (i.e. innovating) or we will cease to exist. So say “thank you” to your friendly neighborhood researcher. While ACR’s research provides no guarantee that we will be the beneficiaries of that research down the line, it is a certainty that without ACR research developing new opportunities for improved patient care, radiology will stagnate. To stay ahead of both our human and robotic competition, we must continue to progress. By better understanding the critical role research plays in furthering our economics and government relations agenda and offering their moral and financial support, ACR members help assure the continued success of our specialty.

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