My Turn: Building a Brighter Future for Radiology Through Philanthropy

R&E Foundation remains steadfast in support of radiology research

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Vijay M. Rao, MD, is chair of the RSNA R&E Foundation Board of Trustees. An international authority on head and neck imaging, Dr. Rao is the David C. Levin Professor and Chair of Radiology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and senior vice president and chair of Enterprise Radiology and Imaging at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia. Dr. Rao is a former RSNA President.

Many giants in radiology have articulated, “Today’s research is tomorrow’s practice.” Research to advance the field must stay front and center for radiologists to remain not only relevant but also leaders in health care delivery. For those who do the research will lead the specialty into the future.

Radiology has seen major transformative technological advances over the past four decades resulting from collaborative academic and industry partnerships. Today, those advances allow our clinical colleagues to provide optimal care to their patients. Research in radiology spans many areas including molecular imaging, precision medicine, health services research, outcomes research and artificial intelligence in imaging, in addition to technology development.

Research is expensive and requires substantial investment. Obtaining funding for research has become increasingly challenging all around. Though federal sources including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) remain a coveted source of funding, it is concerning that the success rate of investigators under 36 years of age decreased to 3% in 2017, compared with 18% in 1983. (LaFrance, A: The Atlantic, 2017)

Traditionally academic radiology departments have strived to support clinical research (so-called unfunded research) through clinical revenues. In the current environment of mergers and acquisitions, health systems are getting larger and swaying away from traditional academic models with increasing emphasis on cost containment and increased clinical productivity. Unfortunately, the academic mission is becoming marginalized. This poses a barrier to progress for young, brilliant researchers who are passionate about innovative ideas to advance the field and ultimately improve patient care. This is where the RSNA R&E Foundation has been highly impactful.

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It gives me great pleasure to share that the RSNA R&E Foundation has remained steadfast in its commitment to support brilliant researchers in radiology and radiation oncology. It has awarded over 1,600 grants since its inception in 1984, amounting to over $66 million in funding. Despite the devastating economic impact of COVID-19, the Foundation awarded $4 million in grant funding in 2020. This could not have been possible without your generous donations.

Appropriately so, you want to be reassured that your philanthropic dollars are being spent wisely and that you understand the results. The Foundation is proud to report a 50:1 return on investment for research grants. This means for every grant dollar that is awarded by the Foundation, grant awardees have been successful in obtaining an additional $50 from other sources based on their research supported by the RSNA R&E Foundation. That is quite remarkable indeed and deserves to be celebrated!

I believe it is easy to get passionate about supporting such a worthy cause. It is a commitment to fund the future of radiology, inclusive of private, corporate and academic sectors. It is a commitment to the future of advancing patient care to personalized imaging and precision medicine. We all benefit as radiologists and as patients from advances supported through our generous giving to the R&E Foundation.