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  • About RSNA
  • Part 24 The Mid-1990s

  • Digital technology was burgeoning in the early 1990s. At the 1992 RSNA Annual Meeting, infoRAD featured the first public demonstration of a standard for digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) developed by the American College of Radiology and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. DICOM has subsequently become the universal standard for medical imaging.

    Earlier that year, RSNA made its debut on cable television. "Radiology Update," a series aimed primarily at radiologists, was produced by Lifetime Medical Television in association with the Society. Several months later, the show was cancelled when Lifetime Medical changed formats. The Radiology Today video series also was discontinued due to lack of subscribers and advertising support.

    Education Center Formed  

    1993 was marked by many successes. The RSNA educational materials library included courses on slides and audiocassettes as well as videocassettes. To develop educational materials in new electronic formats such as compact discs and the Internet, the Board of Directors established a Learning Center. RSNA President Thomas S. Harle, M.D., headed the editorial board that selected the materials for the new Learning Center.

    RSNA also began enlightening the public about the role of radiology in healthcare. The Society contributed money for imaging exhibits at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and helped organizations, such as Radiology Centennial, Inc., educate patients about radiology.

    Envisioning the Future

    Concerned about the fast-paced technologic changes and the evolution of healthcare toward a managed, for-profit system, Society leaders believed radiologists must adopt a proactive stance regarding the shaping of their futures in medicine. Consequently, they created a thinktank called FutuRAD, which studied the coming changes and recommended new activities and programs for RSNA.

    Meanwhile, planners of the 1993 annual meeting were taking advantage of technological changes. The Scientific Program was offered in an electronic format and a new fiberoptic communication link, called RSNAnet, allowed exhibitors to transmit radiologic images and other scientific information between the East and North buildings of McCormick Place. Also, infoRAD featured a deployable teleradiology unit for use during war or disaster relief.

    In his President's Address, Dr. Harle acknowledged the relationships RSNA had developed with international organizations such as the European Congress of Radiology, the British Institute of Radiology and the Japan Radiological Society. He also announced that RSNA was developing an Office of Research Development (ORD), now the Department of Data Management, "to provide support to members in their development as researchers and investigators." 1 

    As RSNA objectives increased, so did the number of staff members at the Oak Brook headquarters. By 1994, the Society employed nearly 100 individuals and the staff was reorganized into four divisions: Finance and Administration (including accounting and human resources), Research and Education (including ORD and the Research & Education Foundation), Informatics and the Scientific Assembly (including information systems and related-society services), and Publications and Education (including the Learning Center, marketing and advertising).

    Digital Advantages 

    RSNA 1994 showed how digital images could be transferred through a computer network that used the DICOM standard introduced at the 1992 meeting. RSNA members could have their picture taken at designated kiosks scattered throughout McCormick Place, then see their digitized image at a technical exhibit. The Learning Center exhibit showcased a new RSNA Web site (soon to be called RSNA Link). In addition, 1994 RSNA President O. Wayne Houser, M.D., focused on advances in neuroradiology during his address and called soft-tissue radiology "one of the most important medical advances of the 20th century." 2 

    More than 55,000 people attended the scientific assembly that year. Fortunately, McCormick Place was also expanding. A new South Building, with a grand concourse and 870,000 square feet of exhibit space, was due to open in 1996. Meanwhile, RSNA meeting managers obtained additional conference space by using two Lake Michigan cruise ships, which were moored in a slip behind McCormick Place.

    Roentgen Celebration Year 

    In 1995, radiologists worldwide marked the 100-year anniversary of Roentgen's discovery of the x-ray. It was also the year during which RSNA was represented by its first woman president, Helen C. Redman, M.D., and, by the summer of 1995, Stanley S. Siegelman, M.D., announced he would retire as editor of Radiology. During his editorship, the average review time for submitted manuscripts had been reduced to eight weeks. At that time, Dr. Siegelman noted that the publications office in Baltimore received more than 2,000 manuscripts each year and that nearly half were coming from locations outside the United States. 4 

    RSNA 1995 convened at the end of the Roentgen centennial year. RSNA leaders chose the meeting theme "Architects of the Future," preferring to look forward rather than backward. The meeting featured a "Radiology Department of the Future," which showcased 21st-century patient care by highlighting new ideas, equipment, techniques and concepts within futuristic settings. ORD introduced a database of funding opportunities.

    International Leader Lost 

    In October 1996, RSNA Board member Derek C. Harwood-Nash, M.B., Ch.B., D.Sc., died suddenly of a cerebrovascular event at his home in Toronto. During the previous two decades, he had been the "goodwill ambassador" for radiology by encouraging worldwide cooperation among radiologists. His position on the Board as liaison for publications was filled by R. Nick Bryan, M.D., Ph.D.

    Also in 1996, the RSNA Corporate Relations Committee, after much feedback from manufacturers of radiologic devices, recommended that a white paper be developed that would "document the plight of U.S. industry and medical practitioners and describe how the worsening situation [was] ultimately detrimental to patient care and research efforts in the United States." 3 

    The paper, "The FDA and Its Impact on the Transfer of Technology to Radiology," was subsequently presented at a conference in Washington, D.C. Speakers representing radiology practice, industry and the FDA debated whether the FDA was too slow to approve medical devices.

    Healthcare in Chaos 

    By late 1996, the medical field was evolving toward a system of health maintenance organizations that allegedly put profits before patient access and led indirectly to decreased funding for many aspects of medicine, including research. Radiologists became worried that in this new cost-conscious environment, many simpler radiologic procedures might be performed by non-radiologists.

    To address those concerns, the RSNA annual meeting was themed "Progress Through Partnership." Society President Ernest J. Ferris, M.D., reminded radiologists that "continued cooperative efforts are necessary to provide optimal healthcare in the future." 4 

    Advancing computer technology helped RSNA put annual meeting publications online. Also, the Society began accepting electronic scientific abstracts of papers to be considered for RSNA 1997.

    Considering Orlando 

    Despite more opportunities to access medical education at home, the scientific assembly continued to grow. Total registration for the 1996 meeting topped 61,500, and the Board of Directors was becoming concerned with Chicago's increasing inability to provide hotel rooms at reasonable prices. Many attendees were sharing hotel space. Others were staying in hotels in the suburbs. Consequently, the Board of Directors began considering other sites for the annual meeting.

    Orlando seemed to have enough hotel rooms and a convention center large enough to house the scientific assembly, but Chicago officials soon realized their city was about to lose the largest annual medical meeting in the world and the more than $100 million in revenue meeting attendees brought to the city.

    Mayor Richard M. Daley brought city officials, hotel managers and labor leaders together to develop improvements in the hospitality, number of hotel rooms available and prices offered to RSNA attendees and exhibitors. The Board decided to keep the RSNA Scientific Assembly in the Windy City until at least until 2011.


    1. RSNA innovations target lifelong learning: Dr. Harle reflects on importance of education in Opening Session speech. RSNA Daily Bulletin 29 Nov 1993:1A.
    2. Dr. Houser reviews the progress of neuroradiology in President's Address. RSNA Daily Bulletin 28 Nov 1994:1A.
    3. RSNA develops white paper on the FDA. RSNA News 1996; 6(1):4,6.
    4. Ferris EJ. Welcome. RSNA Daily Bulletin 1 Dec 1996:1A.
    Thomas S. Harle, M.D.
    Derek C. Harwood-Nash, M.B., Ch.B., D.Sc.