In 1978, the 14 founders of the Society of Computed Body Tomography met for their initial scientific meeting. All hailed from institutions that were the earliest to invest in second- and third-generation CT scanners, with scanning times fast enough to permit whole body imaging. These were radiology departments still among today’s most renowned: Mayo Clinic, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Georgetown University, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of California San Francisco, Stanford University, Weill Cornell Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, etc. In only a few years, the society’s annual meeting would attract thousands seeking to learn directly from the first radiologists to use CT for body imaging.
Today, it is difficult to imagine what imaging would be like without CT. Indeed, CT is now taken for granted. Along the way, radiologists new to the profession became unaware of the ways in which the Society of Computed Body Tomography & Magnetic Resonance (which added MR to its name in 1991) was advancing to stay abreast of the developments in body imaging.
“We had sensed for a while that we had outgrown our name,” says Susan M. Ascher, MD, FSABI, the society’s immediate past president and co-chair of abdominal imaging at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital. “While innovations in CT and MR are still being made, the modalities themselves are no longer cutting-edge technologies. Further, many of our society’s members are leaders in newer technologies, such as machine learning and PET/MR, among others.” To modernize its name and make it congruent with what the group represents, at its October 2019 annual meeting the society officially announced it was now the Society for Advanced Body Imaging (SABI).
To be clear, CT and MR remain a large part of SABI’s purview (Ascher refers to them as “the bedrock of body imaging”). However, now SABI has more reason to converse about other modalities and technologies. Its members want the society to delve further into US, and its fellows are keen to lead the field in applying AI to their imaging practice. SABI aims for a broader focus — involving all modalities, all body systems — to lead innovation as ideas are cross-pollinated across its membership.
A Rebuilt Identity
Prior to choosing a new name, the society engaged a strategic planning firm to help clarify what set it apart from other professional radiology associations. Together, the board and the firm queried the society’s members to find out what made the group valuable. Receiving feedback from 53% of its membership, the society discovered both fellows and members overwhelmingly value two opportunities the group affords: exchanging information with peers about the latest technologic advances, and continuing their professional development.
Armed with these insights, the board of directors devised a desired future statement. They determined that the society should be the authority on the “innovation and translation of cutting-edge technology into the practice of body imaging.” This concept represents what the society has always done and provides the kernel of the tagline SABI adopted: leading innovation into practice.
SABI aims for a broader focus — involving all modalities, all body systems — to lead innovation as ideas are cross-pollinated across its membership.
The Future of Body Imaging
SABI has also made the development of the up-and-coming generation of radiologists a priority — doing so in the welcoming, inclusive environment desired particularly by the group’s more junior members. The society improved in these areas even before adopting its new name. As one female radiologist in her 30s wrote after the 2018 meeting, “This year’s conference was fantastic! It is completely different from prior years with its level of energy and diversity — not just faculty, but topics covered.” Noting that previous events had seemed to her “like an exclusive established professor’s meeting,” she was encouraged to see people like herself there. The young faculty presented material in a dynamic fashion, she continued, citing the productive dialogue between junior and senior members during the meeting’s case panels and debates.
As the size of its annual meetings became more intimate, the society recognized it provided unique forums where younger radiologists could interact readily with fellows and emeriti fellows, a group that represents many of the society’s still-involved founders. To continue this dynamic apart from the annual meeting, earlier this year the society inaugurated a mentorship program that meets via webinar.
“I’m thrilled by the recent developments that have taken place,” says Scott B. Reeder, MD, PhD, FSABI, the society’s president and chief of MRI at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. According to Reeder, “This change will invigorate the society and bring it closer to the excitement and innovation it first embodied 40 years ago, when we were harnessing nascent technology for body imaging applications. While it is bittersweet to say goodbye to ‘computed body tomography’ in our name, ‘Society for Advanced Body Imaging’ captures who we are and what the society embodies.”