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  • Part 11: Coping with a Growing Annual Meeting

  • The growth of the RSNA and specifically, the Society's Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting, was putting an increasing strain on Palmer House facilities. There were so many radiologists coming to Chicago in late November to attend the yearly event, that the Executive Committee and 1967 RSNA President Harold G. Jacobson, MD, launched bus service to the nearby Conrad Hilton for radiologists who had not been able to secure rooms at the Palmer House.

    New technology also played a role in the growth of the RSNA Scientific Assembly. By 1968, a carousel projector from Eastman Kodak, called the Mark 300, was first used for presentations in the Palmer House's main ballroom. It allowed for dual projection and enhanced scientific presentations. By the end of the decade, these projectors were being used by virtually all of the Refresher Course instructors.

    In an attempt to alleviate overcrowding at the meeting, Theodore A. Tristan, MD, who had previously warned of the Palmer House's inadequacies, headed a newly established Audiovisual Aids Committee. Members of this committee scurried about the Palmer House during the Scientific Assembly to provide closed-circuit television transmission of the popular Sunday Evening Film Interpretation Session to overflow audiences in adjacent ballrooms. In addition, the Scientific Exhibits were moved from an open exhibit hall to individual hotel rooms on the seventh floor that were usually used by traveling salesmen to display their wares. Two or three exhibits were in each room. However, the rooms were so cramped and the cigarette smoke was so dense that seeing the exhibits was sometimes difficult. Consequently, RSNA meeting planners began keeping the exhibits open for viewing late into the evening.

    In 1968, RSNA President Stanley M. Wyman, MD, oversaw the first RSNA Annual Meeting that used the entire facilities of the Palmer House. Other groups, such as the Midwestern 4-H Club and an association of American furriers, were forced to find other locations for their Chicago conventions when they coincided with the RSNA meeting. Many Society leaders joked that even Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley could not get a room at the Palmer House unless he could negotiate with the RSNA president beforehand.

    Dr Tristan and his audiovisual committee continued to try to alleviate overcrowding by setting up more closed-circuit televisions to broadcast the Plenary Sessions. But meeting attendance was nearing 7,000—approximately 2,000 more than the total number of Society members. When sessions ended simultaneously, meeting attendees crowded the hallways and stairwells and could hardly move. In addition, despite the expansion of the exhibit hall earlier in the decade, technical exhibitors were demanding more space.

    Radiology Editor William R. Eyler, MD, subsequently devoted the entire March 1969 issue to scientific research discussed at the 1968 Scientific Assembly. This made information accessible to those who were not at the annual meeting or could not attend all the sessions due to the overcrowding.

    Dr Wyman and his successor as Society president, John H. Gilmore, MD, now faced the prospect of having to restrict the growth of the RSNA Scientific Assembly, knowing that this would be an unpopular decision. Nearly 30 potential technical exhibitors had already been excluded from the 1968 meeting and technology continued to advance. In July 1969, two American astronauts successfully landed on the moon and the development of new radiologic modalities was on the horizon. An issue of Radiology had included a paper describing a computer-based picture archiving and communication system to enhance imaging and diagnosis. Restricting the annual meeting seemed counterproductive for an organization dedicated foremost to education.

    Yet to the credit of Dr Gilmore, Secretary-Treasurer Maurice Frazer, MD, and Executive Secretary Marguerite Henry, the RSNA still attempted to improve the effectiveness of its scientific assembly. For example, the 1969 meeting featured "radiologic roundtables" for residents to facilitate dialogue between students and leading teachers in the field.

    By the end of the decade, the scientific assembly was too big to be housed in a single hotel anywhere.

    RSNA leaders discussed the option of splitting parts of the annual meeting among several downtown Chicago venues. In 1969, the Society reserved an additional 750 rooms in the Pick-Congress Hotel for RSNA members and guests.

    Ms Henry and Dr Frazer were becoming overwhelmed with meeting coordination and planning. In the short term, the Executive Committee recognized Ms Henry's contributions and officially changed her title from "executive secretary" to "executive director." In the long term, committee members considered hiring administrative assistants that would form the nucleus of a paid RSNA staff to help her and take over some responsibilities of the Society's secretary and treasurer. As the decade came to a close, it was apparent that RSNA leaders would have to make some major decisions to maintain the growth of the Society and the expansion of the Society's Scientific Assembly.

    Theodore A. Tristan, MD President 1982
    Stanley M. Wyman, MD President 1968
    John H. Gilmore, MD President 1969