• Part 9: The Early 1960s

  • By 1960, nearly all the charter members of the Western Roentgen Society had passed away. (Incredibly, Edwin C. Ernst, MD, a co-founder of the Society in 1915, was alive and still in private practice with three sons, who were all radiologists.) Most of the leaders in radiology had been medical students when the RSNA was struggling to establish itself in the 1920s. But the third generation of RSNA members was optimistic. Radiology was continuing to expand as a result of technologic advances applied to healthcare after the end of World War II. However, personal tragedy struck the Society when Donald S. Childs, MD, who had served as the RSNA secretary-treasurer for nearly 30 years, died in office in April 1960. His death was a great blow to the RSNA because, although he was never a voting member of the Executive Committee, he had been carrying out many crucial duties for the Society. His fiscal management had saved the RSNA during the Depression. He had established an administrative office in his hometown of Syracuse, NY, and had convinced Marguerite Henry to work as the RSNA executive secretary. Dr Childs was the business manager for Radiology, oversaw membership admission, and reminded the Executive Committee of Society bylaws and policies. Perhaps most important, he was the annual meeting planner and personally selected meeting sites and negotiated service contracts.

    Considering Other Meeting Sites 

    The 1960 RSNA Annual Meeting was held at the Netherlands-Hilton Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio. Without Dr Childs' presence and guidance, however, it was a somber affair. Marguerite Henry, who had been asked by RSNA President Theodore "Ty" J. Wachowski to remain as the Society's executive secretary, managed the meeting. She was assisted by administrators from the Hilton hotel chain, such as William H. Edwards. However, the cramped 1960 meeting revealed that the RSNA Scientific Assembly was becoming too large to be housed adequately and cost effectively at a single hotel-based location. Few sites offered enough space for exhibits and sessions, enough housing of varying costs, availability of tradespeople to construct exhibit areas, easy accessibility, and the favorable ambiance required by RSNA meeting attendees.

    The Executive Committee periodically considered meeting locations in North American cities other than Chicago to make the scientific assembly more easily accessible to Society members who lived outside the American Midwest. New York City offered adequate amenities, but, even in the 1960s, the comparatively higher cost to hold a large scientific convention in the Big Apple was prohibitive. The recently expanding desert city of Las Vegas, with an economy based on legal gambling, also boasted huge hotels, but RSNA leaders believed the casinos did not offer an environment conducive to an educational meeting. In addition, many casino owners, some allegedly connected to organized crime, subtly discouraged the possibility of an RSNA meeting in Las Vegas, preferring to accommodate high rollers who would come to town to gamble with thousands of dollars, over radiologists who would rather attend scientific sessions than be in front of slot machines or gaming tables.1 Only Chicago's Palmer House remained a workable venue, and even that site was undergoing nearly continual refurbishment to house future RSNA meetings.2 

    Rise of Maurice Frazer, MD 

    In 1961, Milton H. Berg, MD, was the RSNA president. The Executive Committee made Marguerite Henry the business manager of Radiology and selected Maurice Frazer, MD, to replace Dr Childs. Dr Frazer, characterized by many RSNA members as the stereotypical frugal Scotsman, oversaw Society finances, signed off on appointments to committees, managed RSNA membership admissions, and made annual meeting arrangements. He believed the RSNA should have a larger budget to deal with the expanding field of radiology and recommended an increase in advertising rates for Radiology, especially since technologic advances in publishing were leading to the placement of advertisements in color. He also increased the rental rate for technical exhibits at the RSNA meeting to $350 for an 8x10-foot booth.

    At the 1961 RSNA Annual Meeting, the Carman Lecture, now officially called the Annual Oration, was given by Society Past President Lawrence L. Robbins, MD, in memory of Dr Childs. Dr Robbins paid tribute to Dr Childs' ability to plan the RSNA Annual Meeting. This began a tradition of giving the Annual Oration in memory of a radiologist who had strongly influenced the development of the Society.

    Establishment of the Associated Sciences Committee 

    By 1962, the medical field was not only growing and becoming more complex, but it also included more support personnel who were not physicians. Consequently, the RSNA, led by President Charles M. Gray, MD, welcomed to the Society's annual meeting the allied scientists who supported radiologists. In addition, the RSNA Physics Committee, which under Lauriston S. Taylor, DSc, had championed full Society membership for medical physicists, was renamed the Associated Sciences Committee. Members of this committee now recommended full RSNA membership for all allied scientists once proper qualifications were established.3 Also, as another expression of the democratic principles on which the Society was based, the Executive Committee voted to waive dues for all RSNA members who were practicing in Cuba during the Communist takeover of that country.

    By November 1963, RSNA membership was at 4,159. The Society was the largest scientific radiological organization in the world. Radiology, under the guidance of Editor Howard P. Doub, MD, contained 2,292 pages of scientific text for the year and established itself as one of the leading radiological journals in the world. The annual meeting at the Palmer House, overseen by RSNA President Ivan J. Miller, MD, comprised 102 technical exhibits, 66 scientific exhibits, and 61 refresher courses presented by 76 speakers. However, the 1963 meeting, unlike most of the Society's annual scientific assemblies, was held before the Thanksgiving holiday rather than immediately afterward. This reflected an attempt by Dr Frazer and Marguerite Henry to avoid scheduling the RSNA Scientific Assembly at the same time as the meeting of the Midwestern 4-H Club, which brought its members to Chicago to attend an annual livestock show. In previous years, radiologists had periodically competed with the young farmers for seats at restaurants. Consequently, the final day of the 1963 RSNA Scientific Assembly was November 22. Meeting attendees were sitting through final sessions and preparing to return home when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Ironically, word of the tragedy was given to the RSNA Executive Committee while it met in the same room in the Palmer House in which the Executive Committee was meeting when Pearl Harbor was attacked almost 22 years before.


    1. McCort JJ. Personal communication. Aug 1995.
    2. Baker HL. Personal communication. Aug 1994.
    3. Doub HP. Radiological Society of North America: Fifty years of progress. Radiology 1964;83:771—783.
    Marguerite H. Henry
    Milton H. Berg, MD President 1961
    Maurice Frazer, MD President 1972

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