March 24, 2020

Getting Involved in State Chapters

By Jesse Chen, MD, chief radiology resident at Staten Island University Hospital.

Remember that scene in The Matrix, where Morpheus offers Neo either a red pill (which will reveal the sometimes painful truth of reality) or a blue pill (which allows him to remain in blissful ignorance)? Even at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, getting involved with your state’s radiological society is basically taking the red pill and entering the Matrix.

Your average radiology resident lives in the dark [room], hoping to recognize small details within the pictures. That resident is enlightened, however, by state society engagement so they will recognize big-picture issues outside the view box. Meanwhile, the 800-lb gorilla in the reading room is not only our inattentional blindness while watching a basketball game, but our complacent incognizance of sociopolitical issues that affect our well-being as radiologists.

Hence, the importance of these state-level organized radiological societies cannot be understated. You should engage with your local chapter because you and your state society need each other. Your chapter is serving as our unified voice and fighting for your future. But these societies are comprised of little more than a few concerned member radiologists and so it’s absolutely vital that we volunteer our time and effort to support our common cause. Therefore, I’d like to discuss all the things that we can gain from our state societies.

Your state society should be facilitating your career L.E.A.P.S. That is, it can be your springboard for:

  • Radiology Leadership: If your state doesn’t have an RFS, start one (ask me how). If your state RFS already has a leader, then work with them to make a position for yourself such as advocacy liaison, social media representative, or education chair. As long as you are passionate about being involved, there's always room for you. Meanwhile, involvement with your state society will inevitably connect you with existing local radiology leaders who can potentially remove obstacles along your way.
  • The state society can be an excellent resource for Educational tools. Many larger states like New York, Massachusetts, or Virginia have established comprehensive board review courses. Smaller states (even one-program states like Arkansas) may opt for smaller-scale educational events such as a regular journal club.
  • Many of us think of the ACR RAN, the Rutherford Fellowship, or the annual Capitol Hill Day when we discuss radiology Advocacy. Equally important and perhaps more relevant to your daily practice, however, are health legislation issues at the local/state levels. As an example, the RFS in my own state society (New York State Radiological Society) was proactive last year in lobbying against a bill introduced to the state senate that would allow physician assistants to perform fluoroscopy (S1812). Other states like Florida have established legislative fellowships to better expose residents to advocacy issues. Aside from the ACR, your local state society is your strongest advocate when it comes to both issues affecting practice such as reimbursement or scope of practice, and issues impacting patients such as surprise billing and preventative care coverage.
  • Your state society should also work to provide Professional Development opportunities to help bridge the resident’s transition into the workforce. The Texas Radiological Society, for example, has a successful annual career fair for residents, introducing its RFS to mixed practices from around the state. Additional efforts from around the country include 1:1 mentoring programs and focused workshops on early career topics (e.g. malpractice, contract negotiation, etc.). The state society should not only help residents advance in their careers, but should also strive to maintain engagement from graduating residents to refresh leadership and representation within.
  • Finally, the state society should organize Social events for its residents. Radiologists are part of a small field, with our paths often crossing on committees, on projects, or at national conferences. It is important for us to build interpersonal relationships with our future colleagues, collaborators, and coauthors, and the state society has the unique responsibility of building connections across programs within a state.

Not every state offers all the opportunities above, but the point is that if your local chapter is lacking a resource that you think would be valuable to its residents, then you can probably make it a reality if you get involved. The true productivity, relative efficacy, and outright existence of state radiological societies can depend heavily on population density and geography. Smaller states may not have enough hands on deck to maintain all the L.E.A.P.S. above, but that is why the smaller the state membership, the more important it is to have member participation.

As we move from day to day in the dark room, state society involvement can illuminate the path towards a brighter future. But this path is actually a two-way street that requires us to meet our local chapters halfway. If you commit your time and energy, the state society will be your platform for becoming a thoughtful and connected radiology leader.