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  • About RSNA
  • Part 19 Return to Chicago

  • The dramatic growth of healthcare, which in the 1970s had added CT, interventional procedures, nuclear medicine and MR imaging to the radiology armamentarium, began to slow in the 1980s. Important medical news focused on the identification of a new disease that severely compromised the immune system. This condition, which was later called acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), was being described by the media as potentially more deadly than cancer.

    Birth of RadioGraphics  

    RSNA decided it was time to further expand its educational offerings beyond the scientific assembly. William J. Tuddenham, M.D., RSNA's editor of educational materials, suggested to Executive Director Adele Swenson and the Board of Directors that a new journal be started to promote continuing medical education through home or office study. He pointed out that a journal would be more accessible and easier to use than slides and audiotapes. He also saw a journal as the most effective way to promote continuing education internationally.

    In less than a year, a volunteer editorial board was formed, and Dr. Tuddenham set out to create a publication that would feature notable scientific exhibits from the RSNA meetings. The first issue of RadioGraphics was May 1981. A special edition released at the end of the year featured a review of the technical exhibits presented at the 67th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting in Chicago. The special edition included concise statements and photographs of key elements of each technical display prepared from material provided by the exhibitor. It also included editorial commentary on trends and new developments prepared by a panel of expert radiologists. The publication was an instant success.

    Computer-dependent Advances 

    The 1981 meeting at McCormick Place showed that future advances in radiology practice would depend primarily on computer technology. For example, attendees saw how CT could be used not only for diagnosis but also to improve treatment planning for radiotherapy. Also on display was the hardware used to perform digital subtraction angiography—a procedure in which powerful computers digitized images and "removed" certain parts of the anatomy from the images for clearer views.

    Nevertheless, in spite of these advances, Laurens Ackerman, M.D., a radiologist and expert in the cutting-edge use of computers in radiology, warned that hardware and software were not being manufactured according to a universal standard. Consequently, he foresaw problems with information transfer since computers produced by different manufacturers could not communicate with each other.

    Radiology Layout Revamped 

    As radiologic imaging became increasingly critical to diagnosis and therapy, 1982 RSNA President Theodore A. Tristan, M.D., and the Board of Directors believed greater attention should be paid to the reproduction of images in Radiology since a slight variation in inking or paper quality could obscure an important area of interest. Throughout the year, Editor William R. Eyler, M.D., Managing Editor Donald A. Stewart, Swenson, and representatives from Mack Printing met to monitor and improve the printed quality of the images in Radiology. The layout of the publication was also redesigned.

    The Board of Directors also noted increased RSNA meeting attendance by radiologists from overseas. Subsequently, Swenson developed relationships with international radiologic organizations and encouraged financial support for RSNA refresher course faculty to lecture at foreign scientific meetings.

    Holding Together the Field 

    Society leaders understood that as medical sciences developed, radiologists could no longer be experts in all fields and were becoming subspecialists. This subspecializing threatened to fragment radiology. By the 1980s, more than 30 subspecialty associations had formed. They were based on the patient's age (Society for Pediatric Radiology), the organ system studied (Society of Gastrointestinal Radiologists), the modality used (Computerized Radiology Society), or the type of practice (Association of University Radiologists).1 

    The RSNA Board of Directors believed the Society had a responsibility to hold radiology together by serving as a broad-based medical organization for all imaging specialists and to provide continuing medical education to the general radiologist and subspecialist. Efforts were made to represent all subspecialties on RSNA committees and the editorial boards of Radiology and RadioGraphics. The Board of Directors also committed itself to maintaining communications with the officers of the subspecialty organizations to make certain RSNA refresher courses, scientific sessions and scientific exhibits pertained to each subspecialty. In addition, new organizations, such as the American Association for Women Radiologists, received encouragement and support from RSNA as they became important members of the radiology family.

    Recognizing the Volunteers 

    Over the decades, the success of RSNA had always been dependent on the willingness of radiologists and allied scientists to devote time and energy to the Society. By the 1980s, the annual meetings could not have been possible without volunteers serving on committees, which together oversaw every aspect of the scientific assembly. In September 1982, the Board of Directors appointed a committee to develop ways to award elected officers, volunteer leaders and annual meeting faculty. Headed by Douglas W. MacEwan, M.D. from Winnipeg, Manitoba, this committee presented final recommendations to RSNA President Richard G. Lester, M.D., and the Board approximately one year later. The committee clarified the provisions by which the Board could award the Gold Medal and Honorary Membership. In addition, the outgoing RSNA president was to be recognized by the formal presentation of an official president's pin and a replica of a gavel-shaped piece of mastodon ivory. (The actual gavel was made from ivory preserved in glacial ice for 25,000 years. George E. Pfahler, M.D., gave it to RSNA in 1929 as a symbol of the durability of the Society's work.)

    Arrangements were also made to recognize key committee members, longstanding refresher course faculty, and RSNA staff at significant employment anniversaries.

    Overall, the committee believed RSNA members should contribute to Society efforts without tangible reward and that recognition of key volunteers should be the ongoing responsibility of the Board of Directors. However, the committee also realized that social activities were an important form of recognition. Subsequently, a president's dinner, a president-elect's reception and a leadership reception were planned during each scientific assembly for the Society volunteers. Over the years, they became popular RSNA soirées and have honored Society volunteers in venues such as museums and historical sites.2 

    Mid-November Meeting 

    The 1983 Scientific Assembly at Chicago's McCormick Place began on November 13. For the first time, an official printed program, labeled a special issue of Radiology, was mailed to all RSNA members and Radiology subscribers so that the scientific content of the meeting was available to the widest possible audience. The nearly 400-page publication reflected the previous two decades of growth in radiology. In his welcome remarks to meeting attendees, printed on the program's first page, Dr. Lester noted that the number of papers being presented at the meeting had nearly doubled from 389 in 1976. He stated that this was "due to the proliferation of technologic advances in the radiologic field and the continuing importance of the RSNA meeting as a forum for scientific exchange." 3 


    1. McCort JJ. Building links with subspecialty groups. [In] RSNA Remembered: Reminiscing with Adele-1985. Oak Brook, IL: RSNA, 1985: 91-93.
    2. Campbell RE. RSNA formalizes its recognition of the volunteer contribution. [In] RSNA Remembered: Reminiscing with Adele-1985. Oak Brook, IL: RSNA, 1985: 49-51.
    3. Lester RG. Welcome. Scientific Program of the 69th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Chicago, Nov 13-18, 1983. Oak Brook, IL: RSNA, 1983:1.


    Adele Swenson RSNA Executive Director