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  • About RSNA
  • Part 14 The Move to McCormick Place

  • After the 1972 Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting, Maurice D. Frazer, M.D., who had been the RSNA secretary since 1960 and had filled in as president after the death of President-elect Herbert M. Stauffer, M.D., completed his tenure as an RSNA officer. David S. Carroll, M.D., became the new RSNA president. Hillier L. Baker Jr., M.D., continued as secretary.

    Development of Education Materials 

    The RSNA leaders, frustrated with the limited space for the Society's annual meetings, made as many changes as they could to streamline the program while still including new and developing areas of radiology. For example, in 1973, the Scientific Exhibits Committee began to sectionalize and color-code exhibits. In addition, computers were used for the first time to aid with meeting registration, attendance verification and Refresher Course ticket distribution. RSNA also reached an agreement with the American Association of Physicists in Medicine to cosponsor the scientific program.

    Perhaps the most important decision made by Society leaders that year was to develop a collection of education materials based on RSNA meeting sessions. In 1971, Theodore A. Tristan, M.D., with the assistance of James J. Conway, M.D., Raymond Gramiak, M.D., Norman L. Avnet, M.D., and W. Peter Cockshott, M.D., made the first audio recording of a Refresher Course at the scientific assembly. The course, by John A. Kirkpatrick Jr, M.D., was Roentgen Diagnosis of Congenital Heart Disease in the First Six Months. More Refresher Courses at subsequent RSNA meetings were captured on audiocassette tapes with accompanying images on slide transparencies. By 1973, RSNA announced the availability of audiovisual education programs for sale or short-term rent. Plans were to create a library of education materials.

    Dr. Carroll was aware that many physicians viewed RSNA solely as an annual medical convention that appeared like some scientific Shangri-la for a week near the Thanksgiving holiday, not as an organization that existed all year for the continuing education of radiologists and allied health scientists. By recording annual meeting courses for future use, RSNA established itself as a year-round resource for education.

    Dr. Carroll was also aware that, despite reorganizing and computerizing, the RSNA Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting could no longer expand within the confines of the Palmer House. Subsequently, he began a careful documentation of the multitude of details to which the hotel staff attended. He hoped that this information would be valuable during a time of meeting-site transition. Meanwhile, at the 1973 Scientific Assembly, the 10,800 registrants experienced human gridlock.

    Farewell to the Palmer House 

    Still, RSNA leaders would not impose attendance limitations on the Scientific Assembly. Consequently, with the help of William Edwards, the executive vice-president of the Hilton Corporation, the RSNA commitment to hold the annual meeting at the Palmer House in 1975 was transferred to the larger but less convenient Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago. The transfer would never take place.

    In early 1974, Executive Director Adele Swenson and new RSNA President Robert E. Wise, M.D., realized with alarm that the Conrad Hilton would not be large enough for the 1975 RSNA Annual Meeting. Society leaders had been working with the American Medical Association Council on Education to accredit the RSNA Scientific Assembly. Meeting attendance was expected to increase dramatically if Society members could receive category 1 continuing medical education credit for attending educational sessions.

    In February 1974, the Society's Executive Committee received a report from two representative of the American Hospital Association (AHA) who had evaluated the past two RSNA meetings. Ultimately, they strongly recommended that the annual meeting not be held at the Conrad Hilton but take place in Chicago's major convention center, McCormick Place on the Lake, beginning in 1975.

    RSNA officers and committee chairmen had mixed emotions. For some, the idea of busing radiologists to a scientific meeting within the cavernous halls and drafty classrooms of McCormick Place could only result in disaster. Others, however, believed that if RSNA was to remain true to its mission—to promote and develop the highest standards of radiology and related sciences through education—something drastic had to be done.

    Members of the Executive Committee held lengthy discussions. Some discussions led to spirited debate. In early 1974, with the exception of one abstention, the Executive Committee ultimately voted to move the scientific assembly to McCormick Place beginning in 1975. Swenson immediately realized that RSNA, like the AHA, would need a meeting manager. A year later, she convinced George Schuyler to be the Society's new Director of Scientific Meetings and Educational Materials.

    n December 1974, RSNA members experienced their last cramped scientific assembly at the Palmer House. Attendance was 11,500. The Technical Exhibits occupied 43,000 square feet. Eighty Scientific Exhibits were spread out in 50 small rooms. A total of 183 papers were presented and 72 Refresher Courses were offered.1 In addition, a new type of Refresher Course, essentially a series of sessions given throughout the week of the meeting on a single topic, was introduced. This "Categorical Course" was first proposed by Sidney Nelson, M.D., and covered gastrointestinal radiology. Attendance at each session was more than 500, convincing RSNA leaders to offer additional Categorical Courses at future meetings.

    Welcome to McCormick Place 

    John W. Beeler, M.D., the RSNA president in 1975, viewed the approaching Scientific Assembly near year's end with some unease and anxiety. Schuyler was doing an excellent job managing meeting planning, including coordinating bus transportation from downtown Chicago hotels to McCormick Place and back. But Society leaders could not be absolutely certain a meeting in a convention center would be successful. They assured themselves that the move to McCormick Place was necessary. New advances in radiology were continuing at an accelerated pace. For example, computed tomography was being used to examine the whole body, not just the head, prompting Radiology Editor William R. Eyler, M.D., to create a section in the journal devoted exclusively to the modality. Also, two additional specialized organizations, the American Healthcare Radiology Administrators and the Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology, had formed.

    On November 30, 1975, the 61st RSNA Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting opened in Chicago's McCormick Place. A total of 12,192 attended the six-day meeting without any major problems. Society leaders were relieved. A convention center had worked as a medical meeting site.

    The RSNA was now poised to expand its education offerings at its scientific assembly for the remainder of the century. Schuyler later noted that the most frequent complaints he heard from Society members were that the exhibition areas and hallways lacked places to sit and that there were not enough clocks.2 He subsequently made a note to plan for more lounge space in the exhibit areas. He also arranged to buy clocks from a nearby school district, complete with big hands and big numbers, for prominent display at future meetings.


    1. Campbell RE. Radiological Society of North America, Inc., 1965-1989: Quarter Century of Rapid Growth and Progress. Radiology. 1990;175:1-7.
    2. Schuyler G. Personal communication. December 1981.
    Front row, from left: J.W. J. Carpender, M.D., President-Elect Henry P. Pendergras, M.D., Chairman R. Brian Holmes, M.D., President Back row from left: Milton Elkin, M.D. William T. Meszaros, M.D. Harold O. Wyckoff, Ph.D., Treasurer Hillier L. Baker Jr., M.D. Theodore A. Tristan, M.D., Secretary