(This biography from Richard L. Baron, MD originally appeared in RadioGraphics)
An internationally recognized neuroradiology expert, James G. Smirniotopoulos, MD, is also a pioneer in electronic and online radiologic education. He has created a legacy of innovation—correlating radiologic and pathologic images, creatively using animations and drawings, and employing a unique lecture style—all in the name of teaching more than 28,000 residents over the past 25 years. Many have come to know him through his groundbreaking work at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), Bethesda, Md.
Dr Smirniotopoulos first stepped into the role of educator during his radiology residency at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, where he mentored nonradiology interns during their radiology rotations and taught Georgetown medical students during their required radiology rotations. While he was a junior staff member at Georgetown, Dr Smirniotopoulos developed a 15-hour elective lecture series to teach cross-sectional anatomy to 1st and 2nd year medical students by using computed tomographic (CT) images.
From Georgetown University, Dr Smirniotopoulos moved to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), Bethesda, Md, where he pioneered the use of radiologic-pathologic correlation for teaching neuroradiology. Before his arrival at the AFIP, “rad-path” correlation had been used primarily for education in genitourinary, gastrointestinal, chest, and musculoskeletal imaging. Dr Smirniotopoulos took advantage of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging—which was beginning to emerge as an important imaging tool just as he began his AFIP career in the early 1980s—and combined it with CT to develop more than 25 hours of didactic lectures for the AFIP.
Dr Smirniotopoulos's career at the AFIP was also distinguished by the development of the annual anatomic pathology course, which he directed for its first 4 years. This course was intended to reach pathology residents nationwide, similar to the nationally known radiologic pathology course for radiology trainees—a course that Dr Smirniotopoulos would also eventually direct. He was vice-chair of radiologic pathology at the AFIP for more than 10 years.
While at the AFIP, Dr Smirniotopoulos discovered his passion for electronic teaching. He prepared multiple proposals for digitizing the 40,000 cases in the radiology archives, along with plans for an AFIP teaching file. The projects he set in motion came to fruition after he left the AFIP to join the faculty at USUHS.
Dr Smirniotopoulos's vision for electronic education truly began to flourish at USUHS, where he was professor, chair, and director or co-director of the 2nd year diagnostic interpretation course for 13 years and clerkship director of the 4th year radiology elective for 5 years. He created numerous lectures by using radiologic-pathologic correlation and developed Web sites—including course schedules, faculty lists, and links to downloadable handouts—for his courses long before any commercial learning management system became available at USUHS. Dr Smirniotopoulos also transformed weekly pencil-and-paper “bubble sheet” quizzes for the 2nd year course into an online quiz system, developed a desktop electronic teaching file application, and produced the electronic radiology glossary and “brain lesion locator” on the USUHS Web site.
All this activity led Dr Smirniotopoulos to his greatest achievement to date. With Henry Irvine, then a USUHS student, Dr Smirniotopoulos developed MedPix—a Web-based teaching file application that allowed cases to be shared with military physicians all over the world. Dr Smirniotopoulos was awarded a patent for MedPix in 2006. MedPix, which receives 5000–8000 unique visitors each day and more than 6 million hits per month, currently provides almost 20% of all USUHS continuing medical education (CME) and is managed entirely with an online database to record CME and print certificates. Dr Smirniotopoulos is chief editor of MedPix, responsible for all of the CME regulatory issues, the case selection, and the review or creation of CME questions for each weekly case.
Dr Smirniotopoulos has contributed more than 90 articles in peer-reviewed journals and has authored dozens of book chapters and invited publications. He has also brought his expertise to bear as editor of the American College of Radiology Learning File, a project that began with film archives and was developed initially under a grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to standardize radiologic education nationwide.
In 1985, with his wife Frances M. Murphy, a neurologist, Dr Smirniotopoulos created the highly successful, long-running Washington Neuroradiology Review Course, designed for radiologists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, and pathologists as a review and update of a wide variety of topics relating to neuroradiology and neuroimaging. In addition, he continues to teach the neuroradiology segment of the former AFIP radiologic-pathologic correlation course, now hosted by the American Institute of Radiologic Pathology (AIRP).
A familiar face at RSNA meetings, Dr Smirniotopoulos demonstrated at RSNA 2004 the breakthrough “MedPix Tutor”—an online system that uses a pre-test, learning module, and post-test paradigm for graduate medical education during residency. Dr Smirniotopoulos was a neuroradiology panelist for the RSNA's Image Interpretation Session in 1996, the panel moderator in 1998, and the expert “lifeline” for the neuroradiology panelist in 2008.
A perennial winner of student-selected teaching awards at USUHS, Dr Smirniotopoulos received the USUHS Outstanding Educator Award in 2001 and 2007 and was the first recipient of the USUHS “Innovation in Clinical Education” award in 2009. The RSNA Board of Directors is pleased to add the 2011 RSNA Outstanding Educator to his accolades.