RSNA Grant Helps Shape Researcher's Views on Healthcare

An RSNA grant helped one researcher crystallize his views, leading to a new career path


When Daniel J. Durand, M.D., was awarded an RSNA Research Fellow Grant in 2011, the ensuing project not only led to the publication of numerous peer-reviewed papers, presentations and abstracts, but also helped steer his career on a much different path.

Long driven by a desire to impact radiology care delivery, Dr. Durand launched his RSNA research project on emerging diagnostic modalities poised to change the face of healthcare. Much to his surprise, the project—started while Dr. Durand was a resident at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore—helped crystallize his views on healthcare delivery and led to his current position as the director of accountable care at Johns Hopkins.

“During the RSNA fellowship, I was studying a technique to make healthcare more effective for a subset of patients,” Dr. Durand said. “But there were many hurdles—delays, regulations and personnel turnover, among other challenges—that I encountered in my research effort and later in the clinic, that I realized there were many ways to make healthcare more effective.”

Roadblock Leads to More Research

Specifically, Dr. Durand’s RSNA research project focused on molecular imaging and its role in musculoskeletal radiology. “Of particular interest to me was the use of a new type of radiolabel—C-11 choline—that might replace the need for biopsies in some patients,” Dr. Durand said.

But he hit a roadblock when unexpected renovations to the radiopharmaceutical lab at Johns Hopkins meant that the C-11 choline radiolabel wouldn’t be available for most of his fellowship. Switching gears, Dr. Durand turned to different strategies to improve the imaging assessment of soft tissue masses.

In 2012, Dr. Durand and colleagues co-authored an Academic Radiology research article that examined the characteristic imaging features of soft tissue infections. The paper included a discussion on how soft tissue infections can mimic soft tissue masses—which could help radiologists diagnose what could likely be an infection and avoid unnecessary biopsies.

In other research published in Skeletal Radiology in 2013, Dr. Durand and colleagues described how apparent diffusion co-efficient (ADC) maps are effective in distinguishing between cystic and solid soft tissue masses. ADC maps are a more cost-effective and less invasive method of assessing cystic and solid lesions because intravenous MRI contrast agents are not required.

In another project, Dr. Durand formed a team of co-investigators from oncology, infectious diseases, and nuclear medicine to design and execute a study that used FDG-PET imaging along with serum biomarkers to more accurately distinguish between HIV-associated lymphoma and generalized reactive lymphadenopathy in HIV patients. The research was published in 2014 in The European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging. “In one way or another, the RSNA funding provided by this grant has led to the publication of 22 peer-reviewed papers, presentations and scientific abstracts,” Dr. Durand said. “And the number continues to grow—I am still mining data and completing projects that began during that exciting year.”

Research Reshapes View on Healthcare

By seeing the research process first hand, Dr. Durand came across a number of areas where healthcare—including radiology—is ripe for improvement.

For instance, Dr. Durand spent time during his fellowship reading MRI lumbar spine scans. Many of these had been referred within six weeks of the onset of lower back pain and did not have any “red flag” signs or symptoms, meaning that they were not in accordance with most recommendations for lower back imaging, including the American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria®.

These examples helped Dr. Durand realize the huge opportunity that exists for radiologists to expand their role in healthcare.

“We need to get out there and engage with referring physicians and take our place in the healthcare system where radiologists are the key to avoiding unnecessry imaging and biopsies,” he said. “In short, we need to be stewards of imaging technology, ensuring that we create the most value possible on behalf of patients and society.”

The RSNA grant helped to re-shape Dr. Durand's views on healthcare delivery, quality, safety and cost-effectiveness—issues he is intimately involved with in his current position as director of accountable care.

“Dan is interested in all aspects of medicine,” said John Carrino, M.D., vice-chairman of the Radiology and Imaging Department at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and one of Dr. Durand’s scientific advisors. “He is a thought leader and understands radiology at all levels, from research and clinical work, to teaching and administration.”

“The RSNA research project gave me a nuanced perspective that informs and grounds my present day ‘big picture’ views on healthcare,” Dr. Durand said.

Grants in Action

Daniel J. Durand, M.D.

Grant Received:
RSNA Research Fellow Grant (2011-2012)

“Molecular Imaging of Choline Metabolism in Musculoskeletal Soft Tissue Masses by C-11 Choline PET/CT and MR Spectroscopy.”

Career Impact:
“This entire opportunity gave me an invaluable perspective on the complexity and pace of academic research and its role in healthcare delivery,” Dr. Durand said. “My RSNA Research Fellowship was a critical time in my professional development during which I laid the groundwork for my current work in imaging stewardship.”

Clinical Implication:
“My research into the molecular imaging characteristics of musculoskeletal soft tissue masses has resulted in numerous publications,” Dr. Durand said. “Additional research into the quality, safety and cost-effectiveness of advanced imaging modalities pursued during my fellowship helped me develop a skillset that has served me well in my role as an advocate of valued-based imaging and imaging stewardship.”

R&E Foundation Offers Virtual Auction at RSNA 2015

In celebration of the Inspire-Innovate-Invest Campaign, the Research & Education (R&E) Foundation will host a Virtual Auction offering a chance to bid on both unique experience packages and specialty items with proceeds benefiting the Foundation.

Experiences up for auction include:

  • Ireland Excursion features a six-night getaway to Dublin, Ennis and Killarney. The package includes one night in a historic castle, a rental car, Guinness Storehouse VIP tickets, airfare for two and more./li>
  • Fighter Pilot Adventure puts you in the cockpit as an air combat U.S. fighter pilot for a day. The package includes a three-night hotel stay and airfare for two./li>
  • Best of Chicago experience package offers tickets to the Broadway in Chicago show of your choice, dinner, hotel and airfare for two.

Online bidding will open at 10 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 23, and close at 12:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4. Whether you attend RSNA 2015, participate in the Virtual Meeting, are at the office or in your home, you can join this fun-filled competition while supporting your specialty. Check your favorite items often to ensure your bid is still in the lead or stop by the R&E Booth throughout the annual meeting to follow the auction progress.

For more information visit


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Mike Bassett is a writer based in Holliston, Mass., specializing in health and medicine.