April 10, 2023

RSNA 2023: Whooshing to the Future or Winding Back in Time?

Surbhi Raichandani, MD

Surbhi Raichandani, MD
"And there is a giant whoosh of light. A smash of noise. And time stops. And then it turns over, thinks a bit, and begins spooling backwards, slow at first ... And then it speeds up."

— The workings of a time turner1

Like many of my co-residents, I was overjoyed when I learned the RSNA annual meeting would be held in person again in 2022 and resolved to travel to Chicago. After my first RSNA meeting in 2019 as a first-year radiology resident, I was in awe of the spectacle of this meeting, hosted by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Unfortunately, the next two years for me got lost in the virtual haze of the pandemic. Like many others, I missed out on attending RSNA 2021 in person, but after receiving four COVID vaccinations and booster shots in less than the lifespan of a hamster, I was ready to give it another go!

I arrived in Chicago for RSNA 2022 on a surprisingly bright, cheerful sunny day — already a good sign — which I took full advantage of by exploring both the touristy and non-touristy parts of the city and photographing the dazzling Chicago River during the golden sunset hour before the conference began in earnest the next day.

View of the Clark Street Bridge over the Chicago River in downtown Chicago

When the meeting officially kicked off on Sunday, I boarded the free bus and made a beeline to the conference center straight from the hotel — easy enough.

Unfortunately, the badging and registration process took a long time with lines at least a mile long. It really did feel like someone used their time turner to spool steadily back to the past! Perhaps an improvement for the future is that after attendees register online, they can log on to sessions using Apple Wallet and virtual badges on the RSNA app.

Despite the archaic badging and registration process, RSNA hosted the largest medical meeting in the world amid the huge halls of McCormick Place in a way that felt grander, more ornate and even more expansive. RSNA 2022 transpired with all the bells and whistles of previous years, as well as the generous footfall that makes the occasion come to life.

Similar to previous RSNA meetings, the event attracted everyone and anyone interested in radiology from all walks of life by catering to almost every aspect of the profession with activities including Case of the Day quizzes, jeopardy sessions, in-person courses, educational exhibits, technical vendor exhibits, and yes — even cool 3D artwork that made everyone seem like a parkour star on Twitter!

Surbhi Raichandani, MD, poses on RSNA chalk art during the RSNA 2022 Annual Meeting

Masks remained optional, and networking opportunities were back in full swing with the return of the RSNA After Dark event, RSNA Fun Run, lively social events, splashy dinners and formal mentoring sessions.

One of the very special things about RSNA is that it’s a magnet for international radiology physicians from all over the world, trainees and medical students, mentors and mentees, researchers and clinicians, as well as presenters and their audiences; this microcosm cements strong friendships and builds lasting relationships.

I participated in several meetups, reunited with old friends and made new ones. I also reconnected with colleagues in spirited exchanges, created new memories and shared personal stories. And if you listened carefully, you could hear different accents and all sorts of languages punctuated by universal chuckles of merry laughter all around you!

Two memorable incidents that always seem to plague me at RSNA involve getting lost somehow as I race through the labyrinthine halls of McCormick Place. While trying to reach my next bookmarked talk, I hobble across the skybridge from the distant Lakeside Center wincing in pain wearing beautiful, but ill-fitting heels. I then swiftly exit the skybridge and make a quick stop at the Macy’s on State Street to grab more appropriate footwear to prevent the annual episode of miserable sores and blisters!

View of the LaSalle Street Bridge over the Chicago River in downtown Chicago

While the RSNA app does help by sending friendly alerts and reminders about your next meeting, it does not offer a live map with directions to assist in getting you to the right place. Airport maps, for example, are now standard with nearly every airline app and are very useful in finding your way to the next gate while in a rush. Unfortunately, the RSNA app does not yet have such a map. And so, for me, it was all about getting in those 10,000-plus steps every day and making my Apple Watch dance in gleeful delight!

For all the global football fans, the meeting offered a special area reserved for FIFA (World Cup Soccer) in the Lakeside Center next to the East Terrace overlooking Lake Michigan. The adjacent Discovery Theatre hosted case-based reviews throughout the day on Monday with live audience participation targeting medical students and four-person crew resident teams, of which I was a part. Sadly, we didn’t claim top prize, but it was a lot of fun blazing through the rare diagnosis cases to grab bonus speed points.

View of glass skyscrapers in downtown Chicago with the Chicago River in the foreground

During RSNA 2019, I had wished for a time turner so I could attend every single one of the fantastic sessions! Now with the post-pandemic era in motion, I very much can, because 100% of the content is online with no need to pick and choose.

At that time, RSNA was already moving steadily toward offering all educational content virtually by the year 2020, and the pandemic expedited this process. After all, the ability to travel backward in time to watch everything you missed is a different kind of time-turner trick — the muggle kind!

Hopefully next year (mask or no mask), we will all meet again in the Windy City at the coolest convention in the world (albeit unknown to all non-radiology folks!), winding back time and whooshing forward into the future of radiology.


  1. Thorne, Jack. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two, The Original Production Playscript, Based on an Original Story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany; Little, Brown and Company, July 2016; Act II, Scene 6, Edge of the Forbidden Forest: 87/276. Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7780671-and-there-is-a-giant-whoosh-of-light-a-smash and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter_and_the_Cursed_Child. Accessed April 5, 2023.