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  • Part 16: A New Management Structure and a New Headquarters

  • Since its establishment in 1915, RSNA had been managed by a "committee of the whole," officially called an Executive Committee, but, by the 1970s, referred to as a board of directors. There were two streams of appointment to the Executive Committee. A new member was elected each year and served a six-year term; after the sixth year, that member became Society president. The RSNA secretary and treasurer were also elected to the Executive Committee and could serve as long as they wished but were not in line for the presidency. Over the decades, this had resulted in the rise of powerful secretaries, such as Donald S. Childs, M.D., and Maurice D. Frazer, M.D., who sometimes eclipsed Society presidents. As the Society and its annual meeting grew and became more complex, this organizational structure became less effective. Consequently, in 1977, RSNA President J.W.J. Carpender, M.D., approved the establishment of an ad hoc committee to review the management style of the Society. The members of this committee were the younger members of the Executive Committee. They included Hillier L. Baker Jr., M.D., Society secretary 1972-1974; Theodore A. Tristan, M.D., Society secretary 1975-1979, who had warned of the increasing unsuitability of the Palmer House as an RSNA meeting site in 1964; and Henry P. Pendergrass, M.D., who was emulating his illustrious father—1954 RSNA president Eugene P. Pendergrass, M.D.—and had become a well-known medical leader in his own right.

    The ad hoc committee members concluded that having an executive committee consider all the Society's detailed matters was no longer useful. Instead, they developed the idea of a cabinet structure to assign important responsibilities to individual members of an official Board of Directors. They envisioned the Board to be composed of at least three cabinet positions. The secretary would manage membership and organizational issues and the treasurer would be responsible for Society finances. In addition, a liaison for the annual meeting would oversee all non-program services related to the scientific assembly. Also added to the Board of Directors were the Society president and president-elect. The president-elect would be selected by a vote of RSNA members at the scientific assembly.

    During this time, Luther W. Brady, M.D., a young radiation oncologist from Philadelphia, suggested to RSNA Executive Director Adele Swenson that the new Board of Directors include a chairman of a new "educational council," which would oversee the scientific program for the annual meeting. This council was to consist of the chairmen of the various meeting committees (the Program, Refresher Course, Scientific Exhibits, Technical Exhibits, and Audiovisual committees), as well as the editor of Radiology and the head of the committee overseeing the development of educational materials. Subsequently, an Educational Council was also formed.

    A new Board member was to be selected during each annual meeting. After a Board member completed six years of service, he or she would become the Chairman of the Board—essentially, the chief executive officer of RSNA. The newest Board member would, after having served the first year as an understudy, fill the cabinet position vacated by the new chairman.

    It took another four years for the new RSNA cabinet system to be fully established. Even then, modifications were made. For example, as the RSNA staff took over more administrative duties, the responsibilities of the secretary diminished, and soon, the secretary and treasurer positions were combined.

    Editorial Offices, Society Headquarters Move 

    By 1978, Dr. Tristan remained as RSNA secretary and Dr. Pendergrass was the RSNA president. With the growth of the Society, Swenson had slowly developed a small business staff of full-time employees at the Syracuse office, as well as a smaller administrative staff in Detroit to support Radiology Editor William R. Eyler, M.D.

    Over the decade, procedures pertaining to sending manuscripts out for review and approving them or rejecting them for publication in Radiology were partially computerized. In addition, Mack Printing, still producing the journal after nearly half a century, had recently switched from hot-type to photocomposition printing. Swenson believed it was time for Radiology to be managed by a more formally organized publications staff and proceeded to move the journal's small operations to a larger office in the Detroit suburb of Southfield. This location was alongside the freeway Dr. Eyler took to commute between his home in Birmingham, Mich., and his office at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital. From 1977 to 1979, Swenson, with Dr. Eyler's approval, directed Lillian Kuntz, the office supervisor in Southfield, to contact local colleges and recruit journalism and English majors, with some background in science study, to work as copy editors for Radiology. By early 1979, Donald A. Stewart was hired as the first managing editor of Radiology.

    At almost the same time, Swenson realized RSNA headquarters also needed to be relocated. Throughout the 1970s, airlines had been switching their routes to a hub-and-spoke system, making it nearly impossible to fly directly between small towns in America. Instead, airline passengers had to fly to a major city (the hub), then fly a secondary route to a smaller community (along a spoke). Consequently, Society Board members were finding it increasingly frustrating to gather for meetings in Syracuse. Many had to change planes in larger nearby cities such as New York or Philadelphia.

    Although founded by Midwesterners in St. Louis, RSNA had been headquartered in Syracuse for decades because it had been the hometown of Dr. Childs. Because the annual meeting was being held in Chicago, it seemed a logical choice for the new RSNA headquarters. However, Swenson and other Society leaders could not decide whether RSNA should be downtown or near Chicago's rapidly growing O'Hare International Airport. RSNA Director of Meetings George Schuyler, who was familiar with Chicago and its environs, suggested a western suburb called Oak Brook as the Society's new home. This small community was already becoming a preferred choice as the headquarters for many major corporations. It straddled the major expressways heading into and around Chicago, and it was nearly equidistant from McCormick Place and O'Hare.

    In 1978, RSNA headquarters had been moved to office space on Oak Brook's main thoroughfare. Because many RSNA employees in Syracuse, due to personal obligations, could not relocate to Illinois, Swenson had to rebuild much of the staff. However, she never forgot the people who had assisted her in Syracuse and continued to hire many of them for one week each year to help at the scientific assembly.

    1979 RSNA Board of Directors Seated, from left: Milton Elkin, M.D., Chairman William T. Meszaros, M.D., President Hillier L. Baker Jr., M.D., President-elect Standing, from left: Luther W. Brady Jr., M.D. Richard G. Lester, M.D. Douglas W. MacEwan, M.D., Treasurer Theodore A. Tristan, M.D., Secretary James J. McCort, M.D.