Exclusive: Q&A with AHRA president Luann Culbreth

August 10, 2012
by Diana Bradley, Staff Writer
This year, The Association for Medical Imaging Management (AHRA) will hold its 40th Annual Meeting and Exposition. Luann Culbreth, AHRA’s 2011-2012 president, spoke with DOTmed News to discuss her goals for the association, as well as the anticipated high points for this year’s meeting, taking place at Orlando, Fla.’s Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, August 12-15.

DMBN: Tell us about your professional background.

Culbreth: I have always worked in a hospital setting. I started out as a radiological technologist and taught in a radiography program in Atlanta, Ga. I then moved to Dallas, Texas to work for the Baylor Health Care System for 17 years. I quickly moved from a leadership role into a management role, gaining more responsibilities and opportunities.

DMBN: How did you become involved with AHRA?

Culbreth: I attended my first AHRA meeting about 15 years ago. I was just blown away by the quality of the programs, the kinship of the people. It showed me that there are thousands of other people who are in the same boat as I am and we are all learning together. So it drew me in as an organization to be a part of, to watch, to start networking with. When AHRA came out with the Certified Radiology Administrator Program, I wanted to get involved. I developed and took the first CRA exam and fortunately passed it. Shortly after, I joined the Radiology Administration Certification Commission and then became part of the Annual Meeting Design Team. I was then nominated by my peers to be on AHRA’s Board of Directors and elected as a board member in 2008. Two years later, I got nominated to serve as president-elect. Once you’re elected, you serve one year as president-elect, the next year as president and the third year as past-president – it’s a three-year commitment. What I saw 15 years ago has not faded away and it won’t 15 years from now. We keep that vision and that passion alive. I have continued to love giving to this organization.

DMBN: How would you define the association’s role?

Culbreth: We at AHRA want to be that indispensable source. We did a member survey this year and discovered our members want us monitoring regulatory issues that impact their daily lives, but they also want us to provide the resources that address those issues.

Parallel to monitoring issues, what came out of our member survey was expanding knowledge of medical imaging management. We are seeing a lot of leaders in medical imaging expanding their roles as organizations are consolidating and facilities are cutting staff. As medical imaging leaders touch pretty much every aspect of the hospital, we are seeing hospital leaders ask them to take on additional responsibilities and expand their management skills.

It’s not just having an annual meeting or a spring conference every year. While those events are tangible, extremely valuable resources, we look at what intellectual things we need to do to bring value to our members.

DMBN: As president, what has been your focus?

Culbreth: My main focus this year has been bringing the AHRA Strategic Plan to life. Everything we do as a board is supported by this plan, which includes three primary goals: quality, professionalism and collaboration. Each of those goals is broken down by objectives and strategies.

The collaboration goal is freshest on my mind and one of its objectives is to increase awareness internationally. In June, AHRA had the opportunity to be in Toronto at the 2012 International Society of Radiographers and Radiological Technologists (ISRRT) World Congress, held in conjunction with the Canadian Association of Radiation Technologists. We not only exhibited, but also sponsored a daylong event about leadership and management. Being at an international meeting was a rare opportunity for us, giving us a chance to show our Canadian members we support them. Patient care is very similar no matter what language or country it’s in. We just want to be a catalyst for health care improvement.

DMBN: What are this year’s must see events?

Culbreth: Last year we introduced the Exhibitor Symposium, which includes exhibitors who have seen so much value in the AHRA meeting that they come in and sponsor their own specific symposium. For example, at this year’s event, there is an Exhibitor Symposium sponsored and hosted by Siemens Healthcare called: “Can Imaging Equipment Impact Patient Satisfaction? Creating a Healing Environment in Radiology.” And Hologic, Inc.’s symposium topic is, “Practical Considerations in Implementing Breast Tomosynthesis in a Clinical Setting.” So you can see that no matter who is doing these symposiums, they make it something that is pertinent to who they are as an exhibitor. The exhibitors have recognized the value of the attendees and vice versa.

Another highlight is our Basic Management Skills Program – a fantastic program that has been going for six years now, involving four days of sessions, focusing on everything from HR to finance to budgeting to operations to management, because AHRA recognizes that there is a need for leaders in medical imaging who may have worked their way up the ranks because they were good clinically and got tapped to become a supervisor. But they become supervisors with limited opportunities to train and learn about project management or business management or policies and procedures or marketing and negotiating. So this program helps bridge that knowledge gap.