ACR Bulletin

Covering topics relevant to the practice of radiology

A Call for Observant Leadership

William T. Herrington, MD, FACR, calls on leaders to mentor, nominate next generation in his Presidential Address at ACR 2024. 
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Chance is when discovery meets the prepared mind.

—William T. Herrington, MD, FACR
May 08, 2024

In his Presidential Address at ACR 2024, outgoing ACR President William T. Herrington, MD, FACR, discussed change management and called on leaders to enlist those who can identify disruptive change or technology. “We need many and varied brains to participate, anticipate, recognize and predict change,” said Herrington, who cited numerous industry examples of both missed opportunities for innovation and successful outcomes, including the development of radiology itself.

“Chance is when discovery meets the prepared mind,” said Herrington, paraphrasing a famous quote by Louis Pasteur. “Who would have thought that video cards, which would not only allow the playing of more realistic, faster frame-rate games for which they were designed, would also become the eyes of machine learning.”

Herrington’s talk addressed the leadership pitfalls of resisting change and failing to look at an organization critically and objectively. “There’s a potential risk that has affected corporations in the past that thought they were doing a great job and/or only needed to make small investments in their product, only to later realize their mistake,” he said.

One such example Herrington mentioned was the failure of Kodak. The well-known photography corporation missed opportunities in digital imaging despite being integral in its initial development. “Kodak was involved very early in the development of digital imaging but didn't recognize that lower resolution pictures would be useful and desired,” said Herrington. “Kodak concentrated on building a high resolution $20,000 device to match analog films. In addition, the company purchased software with the earliest version of photo sharing in 2001 that was mistakenly used as a method to allow for transfer of data for printing of images, not … for a product that would center on sharing images to view in digital format — for example, Facebook.”

There's a potential risk that has affected corporations in the past that thought they were doing a great job and/or only needed to make small investments in their product, only to later realize their mistake.

—William T. Herrington, MD, FACR

Similarly, Xerox Corporation, cited Herrington, was investigating opportunities to use a graphical user interface — icons or pictures — rather than typing text commands to operate programs. And then in 1979, he said, “A young man named Steve Jobs took a tour [of Xerox] and returned to his company demanding a smaller, more functional pointing device costing much less than $300, which it was at Xerox. This became the mouse, which took the personal computer industry in an entirely new direction.”

When addressing AI and large language models, and how they have already changed the way people work and communicate, Herrington said, “My favorite published quote regarding computers and AI is a follow-up from a professor of neuroscience at MIT, who in 2008 was quoted in an article: “There are a lot of tasks that are essentially mindless but that only humans can do, such as inspecting things on an assembly line or searching for explosive devices or looking at radiology images.’”

Herrington recognized the support he has received throughout his career and called on leaders in the audience and their ability to nominate future leaders. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be standing here. I'm here because every step of the way, I was encouraged and mentored to take the next step in service and governance by those who thought I was suited to do it and might do a decent job. I call each of you to leadership or to mentor and identify tomorrow's leaders.”

He concluded his address by stating that “If you think you are too small to have an impact,” paraphrasing a quote by the Dalai Lama, “try sleeping with a mosquito in your tent.”

Author Raina Keefer  contributing writer, ACR Press