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  • My Turn

    January 01, 2013

    A Tribute to the R&E Foundation

    As I begin my tenure as RSNA president, I find myself in the unique position to have an 8-year panoramic perspective of RSNA programs. I am most proud of the RSNA Research and Education (R&E) Foundation. The idea of RSNA providing research funding emerged in the early 1980s, when the RSNA Board of Directors recognized the need to help young investigators jumpstart their academic research careers in the radiologic sciences—radiology research money was virtually nonexistent at this time.

    The Board of Directors convened an ad hoc Strategic Planning Committee, which in turn defined the scope and charge of the “R&E Scholarship Fund” and received an initial $1,000,000 endowment from RSNA. This scholarship fund ultimately became the RSNA R&E Foundation.

    My introduction to the Foundation came in 1993, when I first served as a grant reviewer. Subsequently I was invited by the late Helen Redman, M.D., 1995 RSNA President, to join the Foundation Board of Trustees. I’ve now been involved with the Foundation continuously for 20 years and have witnessed first-hand its remarkable evolution. Some statistics illustrate the incredible growth.

    In 1985, an eight-member team of R&E Board of Trustee members served as grant reviewers, with help from expert consultants as needed. Compare this to 2012, when more than 60 RSNA members reviewed applications as part of the radiology research, radiation oncology research and education study sections or the medical student research review panel.

    During the first funding year, 1986, 11 grant applications were received; in 2012, that number was 196! In 1986, two grants were funded; in 2012, the number of new projects funded was 72! As of 2012, the Foundation has awarded $37.3 million to support 957 projects, supporting nearly as many physician-scientists investigating the radiologic sciences.

    R&E Foundation: Then and Now

    A 2008 survey confirmed that, on average, each Foundation dollar awarded had generated more than 30 dollars in subsequent grants from other sources, largely the NIH. This return on investment translates to over $1 billion of funding stemming from Foundation grants.

    Grant recipients have become department chairs and leaders in organized radiology. They have served RSNA as volunteers, some as members of the Foundation Board of Trustees and Board of Directors. Many grant recipients now mentor their own residents, fellows and junior faculty through the R&E process. Grant recipients also support the Foundation by serving as grant reviewers and committee members and through their generous donations.

    Clearly the vision of the RSNA Board of Directors has benefited all of radiology, much more so than seemed imaginable 25-plus years ago. For my own part, I encourage every department chair and program director, of every diagnostic radiology and radiation oncology department, to join RSNA and become familiar with the Foundation grant programs. I encourage academic departments and community practices to donate to the Foundation, as a group or as individuals. Nothing is a more important investment in the future of radiology and the radiologic sciences.

    For more information on the RSNA Research & Education (R&E) Foundation, go to RSNA.org/Foundation.aspx.

    Sarah S. Donaldson, M.D.
    Sarah S. Donaldson, M.D., is 2013 RSNA President and serves as a trustee of the R&E Foundation Board of Trustees. Dr. Donaldson is the Catharine and Howard Avery Professor of Radiation Oncology at Stanford University School of Medicine, associate residency program director of radiation oncology at Stanford Hospital and Clinics and chief of radiation oncology service at Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital. She is a Presidents Circle Donor.
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