Exclusive: Interview with RSNA 2012 president Dr. George Bisset III

November 19, 2012
by Diana Bradley, Staff Writer
Dr. George Bisset III, president of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), sure has his plate full. But even as the society’s annual meeting quickly approaches (taking place November 25-30 at Chicago’s McCormick Place), in an interview with DOTmed News, Bisset was still able to provide some advice to current and prospective radiologists, give the skinny on what’s happening at this year’s meeting and share his thoughts on the future of the RSNA and radiology in general.

DMBN: What inspired you to pursue a career in health care?
GB: Ever since I can remember, I’ve been attracted to the field of medicine. I think back to my childhood and I was always fascinated by anatomy and physiology. I remember telling people when I was 8-years-old that I was going to be a cardiologist, which did in fact turn out to be my initial field of study. I don’t think I ever deviated from that goal of pursuing medicine as a profession. Maybe my love for medicine comes out of the fact my mother was always interested in teaching me and my brother about medicine. Although she was not affiliated with the medical field, she always aspired to be an amateur doctor. Her enthusiasm was an inspiration for me. As it so happens, my brother is also a radiologist.

DMBN: How did you become involved with RSNA?
GB: I first attended the RSNA annual meeting in 1987. I had seven scientific abstracts accepted at the annual meeting that year and I remember being almost overwhelmed by the amount of work it took to get those abstracts ready for presentation. But when I arrived at the conference, I was awestruck by the sheer size of the meeting and the wealth of opportunities available to learn. At the same time, I was fascinated that any organization could pull off a meeting like this with 60,000 people in attendance. At that point in time, I realized this was an organization with which I wanted to be involved. I only dreamed of someday being on the board and being president. I feel so fortunate I was able to live out this dream. I really didn’t think I would have a chance, but it’s been a great ride.

DMBN: During your time as president, what initiatives or causes did you champion?
GB: Over the last year, one of the big investments I’ve tried to champion is our relationship with Latin America. I believe it is critical to the RSNA’s future to cultivate these relationships with our neighbors in Central and South America. We have so much to gain by collaborating. This year, we are highlighting Brazil in the “Brazil Presents” format. Last year, I was able to promote a Saturday afternoon session where all presentations were in Spanish, co-sponsored with the Collegio Interamericano Radiologia (CIR). We had excellent attendance last year, so we are going to enhance the program this year.

One of the other ideas I campaigned for was developing a dedicated pediatric campus, where all the pediatric sessions were held in one part of McCormick Place with the idea of this being a meeting within a meeting. This year, we are expanding that to the molecular imaging field.

A couple years ago, I advocated the idea of having a dedicated course at our annual meeting for hospital administrators. This has since come to fruition and flourished, also to be expanded this year.

Several years ago, I advanced an idea for the “series courses”, where we combined education with science. Prior to that, we had either “all-science” or “all-education” sessions. We created the series courses in an attempt to blend the two, so people could get a little taste of science with their education. Those have been quite successful.

DMBN: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s show?
GB: I believe the exciting development relates to expanded technology. At last year’s meeting, we piloted the “Diagnosis Live” technology, which allows participants to interact with speakers through mobile technology. Participants are providing rave reviews. The number of courses featuring this technology will be expanded this year. We are also augmenting the virtual meeting this year, and I think you’re going to see a tremendous growth in the use of mobile applications to receive delivery of things like the “Daily Bulletin.” People will be able to download a lot of material from the meeting on their smartphones or tablets. We have an exciting series of plenary sessions, including one on facial transplantation, which makes use of radiologic imaging to help plan surgery; and a great plenary session on the “doctor as patient” in keeping with our theme of “patients first”. There are several other plenary sessions focused on using IT to enhance the patient experience and communication issues.

DMBN: In your opinion, what has been the most impressive radiology innovation in the last decade?
GB: The ability to do very sophisticated vascular imaging in a non-invasive fashion. I think we have made some amazing strides, like being able to use CT and MR to image the vascular space without having to do angiography. Although CT has gotten bad press because of the radiation, we have made huge strides in being able to lower the dose associated with CT. Now with some of the newer iterative reconstruction methodologies, we have been able to reduce dose to less than 1 millisievert, which is quite impressive. Ten years ago, we were doing 10-slice scans at comparatively high doses; now we can do 320-slice scans at a fraction of the dose. Dose reduction has been a huge stride.

DMBN: Is there any big challenge facing radiologists or the practice of radiology that you’re particularly concerned about at the moment?
GB: We need to put patients first as one of our responsibilities as radiologists and we need to play a bigger role as part of the care team for the patient. Radiologists have to become more integrated into this patient-centered care team. In keeping with the theme of “patients first,” one of the things I am going to talk about at the meeting is radiologists’ need to take ownership of patients. When you listen to radiologists talk, they talk about “the” patients, rather than “our” patients. To ensure the visibility of our profession with patients and colleagues, we need to share in that ownership. There are lots of ways we can improve how we interact with patients. That will be the focus of my presidential address and I hope the message hits home.

Another challenge is managing and dealing with all of the information that we ingest. I look back over my career and realize that when I started we just had to review a few images and render dictated reports; now we are managing so much more information. While mobile and wireless technologies can simplify access to information, managing all of the data can create additional stressors for us. So we have to figure out how to manage these IT-intensive platforms that we are now dealing with.

DMBN: What advice or warning would you offer to people looking to move into the radiology field?
GB: Advice? I don’t remember a day I have awakened and regretted my decision to go into radiology. It’s a great field. We are involved with all of the interesting patients and clinicians in the hospital. We are the diagnosticians. The only advice I can give people contemplating entering the field of radiology is “go for it.” I can’t think of a better profession. Warnings? It’s a competitive, challenging, long road.