Reflections of a Rutherford-Lavanty Fellow

Michael Johnson MDMichael T. Johnson, MD, a Body MRI Fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and 2019 ACR Rutherford-Lavanty Fellow, contributed this post.

As I wind down my busy week in Washington D.C., I can’t help but marvel at the volume of information I am tasked with processing.

First, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to spend time with the ACR’s exceptional Government Relations staff as a Rutherford-Lavanty Fellow. I have long held an interest in advocacy, but seeing the inner-workings of D.C. firsthand truly gave me an appreciation for the degree to which our organization supports both radiologists and patients. Our staff are both knowledgeable and clever, understanding the issues inside and out, and also knowing how to drive the changes we would like to see on Capitol Hill. If I am able to leave this week and retain just a fraction of their knowledge and tact, I truly believe my patients and I will be in a better place as we look to the future.

It should perhaps come as no surprise that health care continues to remain front-and-center on Capitol Hill – an astounding 69% of respondents in a 2019 Pew Research Center poll named health care as a top priority for the president and congress. Sure enough, I arrived during Congress’s first week back in session as the buzz on surprise medical bills was approaching a peak.

Patients are occasionally hit with surprise bills when they are unexpectedly cared for by out-of-network physicians. While most people on both sides of the aisle agree that patients should not be held accountable in these situations, some proposed legislation would have the consequence of putting insurers interests above the interests of physicians on the fiscal side of the issue.

Fear not – we, and other physician groups, urged our legislators to consider proposals that would at least level the playing field between physicians and insurers. Many of these proposals are modeled on New York’s 2014 legislation studied by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.

While surprise billing occupied a lot of our attention during my week-long visit, I also had the opportunity to speak with legislative assistants and legislators about the Protecting Access to Livesaving Screenings (PALS) Act and the Resident Education Deferred Interest (REDI) Act. The PALS Act would protect access to screening mammography for women beginning at the age of 40, something which has been threatened on a near annual basis since the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) provided its recommendations on screening mammography in 2009. The REDI Act would allow new physicians to defer their medical student loan interest during residency and fellowship training. As part of a dual PGY-6 family, I can confidently report that the math adds up (as always) and that this bill has the potential to save individual trainees tens of thousands of dollars in the long term.

One of the most significant takeaways from this week was the importance of building relationships with our patients, colleagues, advocates and legislators. Just like building trust with our patients helps us provide exceptional care, building trust with individuals who have the ability to affect meaningful policy change allows us to improve health care on a larger scale.

As physicians, this rings particularly true because being the physician in the room matters. At separate events, while surrounded by one-to-two dozen other people, Representatives Terri Sewell and Katherine Clark sought me out specifically for my input on health care issues because of my position as a physician caring for patients in this country.

Most physicians probably know this, but a reminder shouldn’t hurt: your MD or DO matters. The credentials carry credibility. The credentials carry influence. You probably went into significant student loan debt and gave up your twenties, maybe even your thirties, because you care about your patients and people understand that.

We often debate and worry about the factors in health care that contribute to the erosion of the patient-physician relationship, but physicians still consistently score as one of the most trusted professions in America. That trust lends great strength to your voice in advocating for your patients and your profession.

If you are reading this brief blog, you are already ahead of the curve. You have already demonstrated at least a small interest in learning about radiology advocacy (aka #radvocacy).

I urge you to get involved with your local and state radiological societies and with our American College of Radiology. Please try to read the Advocacy in Action e-newsletters to stay up-to-date on the vital goings-on in local and national politics.

Please consider donating to RADPAC. Please also consider applying to be a future Rutherford-Lavanty Fellow through the ACR or through your state if you’d like to take a deeper dive into advocacy and the work the ACR is doing for you and your patients. Finally, please try to remember: physician advocacy matters. Your voice matters.

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Mammography CME Toolkit: Fight Confusion with Facts

Smetherman_Dana_1This post was contributed by Dana Smetherman, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Commission.

Many clinicians remain confused about when their female patients should start getting mammograms. Some don’t understand — or know where to find — the data on reduced mortality and morbidity due to screening.

Conflicting guidelines, lack of data and the resulting confusion may contribute to thousands of unnecessary breast cancer deaths each year.

The American College of Radiology® (ACR®) has created a free, new “Talking to Your Patients About Breast Cancer Screening” continuing medical education (CME) Toolkit to help you help your referring providers — and together save lives.

These customizable materials empower your referring providers to:

  • Identify and assess reliable breast cancer screening and outcomes data
  • Discern actual breast cancer screening risks vs. benefits
  • Discuss with patients when to be screened to avoid unnecessary death and treatment due to late breast cancer detection due to lack of screening
  • Earn CME credit upon completing an online module

We have to fight confusion with facts. Lives depend on it.

So, please:

  • Customize these materials with your branding (we’ve left a place for that in each item)
  • Share with your referring clinicians and advise them of CME availability!
  • Place patient materials on your website and in your waiting room
  • Print and include in correspondence with patients and referring providers

The toolkit can be accessed via Breast Imaging Resources Section, Provider Resources Section, and

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Building a Successful Organization: Radiology as a Key Stakeholder

Martin-Carreras_TeresaTeresa Martín-Carreras, MD, diagnostic radiology resident and imaging informatics fellow, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, contributed this post.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Radiology Leadership Institute (RLI) Leadership Summit, a meeting where radiologists in all stages of their career joined business school experts to study the inner-workings of a successful health care enterprise. Organizational success has many facets, including fostering resilience amongst team members, shaping your professional brand, adequately navigating management transitions and understanding cost and reimbursement models.

My Summit experience began with a discussion about resilience. As a radiology leader, you can build a resilient team that can overcome leadership or financial issues within your organization. To build resilience, it is crucial to bring your team together, set your vision for success and learn how to deal with setbacks. The process starts with introspection, particularly of past challenges. As Scott Taylor, MBA, PhD, said, “Resilience grows through challenges and setbacks.” Is there something you realize now about your problem-solving process that you didn’t appreciate previously? How can you process and deal with failure in the future, both individually and as a member of your team? Identify your team’s commonalities, and leverage them to move forward and work towards a stronger and more purposeful relationship.

On the second day of the Summit, we had a comprehensive discussion regarding the critical role that personal branding plays in career success. Take a step back, and ask yourself – are you taking intentional action that reflects your core values? Do your relationships help enhance the messages you’re communicating? Build relationships with your colleagues and seek out mentors. The opportunities that arise from this support system will ultimately contribute to the success of your department or practice, and propel you towards the next step in your career.

Finally, we also tackled reimbursement models and organizational financial wellness. It’s no secret that many physicians lack sufficient knowledge about the intersection of health care and business theory. Financial fluency, including an understanding of cost and reimbursement, can make the difference between a healthy, functioning organization, and one which faces challenging times. Business concepts were solidified through participation in several case study group activities which explored how to deal with difficult times and management transitions in academic and private practice settings. Additional topics discussed included: opportunities and pitfalls of transparency in times of transition, how to evaluate offer letters and how to critically appraise profit and loss statements.

As I reflect on the many lessons learned at the 2019 RLI Leadership Summit, I encourage you to be the future of radiology that you want to see. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, use your platform to get engaged, and learn the functions of your department or practice. This will not only help advance your career, but it will also contribute to the success of the organization, and ultimately lead to better patient care.

  • Interested in digging deeper into these topics? Registration for the 2020 RLI Leadership Summit is now available.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and join the discussion on Engage (login required).