May 30, 2023

Why ACR Membership Is Important for Radiation Oncologists

Chelsea Jenae Miller, MD

Chelsea Jenae Miller, MDWe are all familiar with the historical ties between the disciplines of radiology and radiation oncology (RO). In the 1970s, the American Board of Radiology (ABR) recognized that therapeutic radiologists required a unique type of training, dramatically different from their diagnostic radiology colleagues. The ABR, therefore, discontinued training in general radiology and two separate fields emerged.

The American Society of Therapeutic Radiologists (ASTR) was formed in 1966 to represent the interests of radiotherapists and medical physicists with the goal of promoting research and better education. In 1983, ASTR evolved into the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) with a research and education focus while deferring to the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) on the issues of socioeconomics and advocacy in Washington.

In the 1990s, ASTRO also began advocating for our specialty and focusing on socioeconomic issues. As one of the smallest fields in medicine, the influence of RO and the ability to voice our concerns at the national level can be a bigger challenge compared to other specialties.

ASTRO membership plays an important role for radiation oncologists by fostering mentorship, providing RO-specific annual meetings, advancing groundbreaking scientific discoveries and offering access to premier RO research journals. Given all that ASTRO provides, it’s important to keep our ASTRO memberships, but for the reasons stated below, I’d like to make the case for why it’s even more important to maintain your membership in the ACR.

With more than 40,000 members, the College is the best organization to protect RO interests on a national level by helping amplify and communicate the needs of radiation oncologists. In fact, we were in danger of losing our representation in the American Medical Association House of Delegates (AMA HOD) due to low RO member turnout. On the other hand, the number of ACR members within the AMA is significantly higher, which means the College has several votes in the AMA HOD.

In addition, the ACR has a strong presence at CPT® Editorial Panel meetings, resulting in an active, dedicated and respected CPT team to handle all aspects of this process for radiology. The ACR also has an active, dedicated and respected team on the American Medical Association/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC) with advisors representing radiology on all aspects of RUC meetings.

ASTRO does not have a seat on the CPT Panel, and only once (for two years) had a seat on the RUC. Therefore, if RO membership numbers continue to decline within the College, leadership may be less inclined to support RO interests as they have in the past. Despite our small numbers within the ACR, the College provides tremendous support to RO. Our representation is secured on the ACR Board of Chancellors, with selected representation from the American Radium Society and ASTRO.

ACR staff is phenomenal as well; they are incredibly knowledgeable and highly respected on the Hill and at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. With the constant talk and fear of reimbursement cuts in recent and coming years, it is vitally important that our specialty remains active in Washington with a large body of voices to help strengthen our concerns.

I have loved engaging with the ACR during my time as a resident and now as a young physician, and I think all radiation oncologists should join, or renew their memberships to, this vital organization.