At a time when radiology, like many other professions, is struggling with a lack of personnel, time and resources, ACR President Howard B. Fleishon, MD, MMM, FACR, delivered a message of hope during ACR 2023: The specialty will not only survive the challenges but will thrive through innovation, adaptability and creative leadership.
In the face of profound change in the field, Fleishon suggested that the radiology profession needs to keep its focus on the fundamental values of patient-centric care. First and foremost, radiology is about relationships.
“We live at a complex intersection of nearly every single specialty in medicine,” Fleishon said. “We depend on an interrelated matrix of people, practices and departments. Relationships are vital to our success: relationships with our colleagues, our partners and staff; relationships with our referring physicians and even our administrators. Our most important relationships are, of course, with our patients.”
Fleishon cited a 2008 study that surveyed people in three metropolitan areas. Of the respondents, only 50% identified radiologists as physicians. The specialty has come a long way since then — but only through concerted effort. He recalled the ACR 1993 presidential address by Murray L. Janower, MD, FACR, who urged radiologists to speak with at least five patients a day. He gave this example: “Good morning, Ms. Smith, I’m Dr. Fleishon. I’ll be reviewing your images today. Thank you for coming in.”
“If that were to happen, at least 40 million patients per year would be reminded that radiologists are physicians,” Fleishon told the audience.
He urged ACR members to strive for not only clinical excellence, but also clinical empathy. “Sometimes we have to step back and remind ourselves that behind every study, there’s a person.”
Emphasizing clinical empathy improves diagnostic accuracy, which enhances treatment and leads to better clinical outcomes. Just as important, Fleishon pointed out, is that it helps patients feel connected to their medical providers. “Patients deserve to know we not only care for them, but we also care about them.”
It certainly feels like the Wild West out there sometimes. As radiologists, we must be the vanguards of patient protections.
This viewpoint will become even more important as radiology ventures further into emerging and advanced forms of technology. Telemedicine has remained increasingly popular in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The promise of AI, meanwhile, continues to grow, with hundreds of tools already approved by the FDA for use in radiology.
“It certainly feels like the Wild West out there sometimes,” Fleishon told the audience. “As radiologists, we must be the vanguards of patient protections.”
The good news is that radiology has always relied on technology and innovation to support the relationships that exist between radiologists, their colleagues and their patients, he said.
“Interventional Radiology (IR) has been ‘creating’ for years,” Fleishon noted. “IR is constantly reinventing itself so that now we are busier than ever. Innovating to solve problems is a form of creative leadership. And that is our sweet spot.”
ACR is the ideal society to lead the charge, Fleishon told the audience. “Working together, we can raise the profile and standards of radiology.” He thanked the organization he has served since 1994, giving special acknowledgement to those who mentored him early on and others who have worked with him to usher the College into its next 100 years.
“We all know change is difficult,” Fleishon said. “Moving away from a familiar status quo, toward the promise of a vision for our future, without an obvious or concrete, burning platform — that’s an audacious goal. Thinking beyond our current workflows, making the necessary investments in our practices for future technology, the entire radiology community coming together as a whole, committing ourselves to leadership, research and technology — that is perhaps our ‘radiology moonshot.’”
Fleishon showed a photo of the American flag NASA astronauts planted on the moon in the 1960s. “We may not plant the flag of radiology on the moon, but we will redefine our practices and our profession and reassert our role as the doctors’ doctor and as physicians for our patients,” he said. “We will transform our future for self-determination, leading from out front — not only for radiology, but for all of medicine.”
To see more photos from ACR 2023, view the full magazine online.