Dr. Stanley Baum discusses the formation of SCVIR and the evolving field of interventional radiology.
Please tell us about the formation of SCVIR. In 1973, a number of my colleagues and I had the idea to form a society of cardiovascular radiology. We wanted a forum where we could compare the emerging techniques of what was at the time an infant specialty. We wanted to share in the experiences of other groups, discuss complications we were seeing, and generally learn how best to perform our procedures. Originally, the concept was a closed-membership society for only those who were actively involved in doing these procedures.
How did the organization evolve? At our first meeting, we gathered feedback, drew up bylaws, elected officers, and formally created the society. I was the first president and served for 2 years. The members decided that in order to pay for meetings and to provide substantial education, we should hold a refresher course. We organized a 3-day meeting for the members of the society, followed by a week-long refresher course, which was attended by several hundred people. This annual event went on for many years; it became somewhat awkward as a greater number people became increasingly experienced in the field. In addition to the instructional course, attendees wanted to hear what the so-called experts were saying at the pre-course meeting. So we opened up the society, and it grew from the original 50 or 60 members to 150 in the first year, and continued to grow until the organization, now called SIR, today has many thousands of members and is one of the largest subspecialty societies in radiology.
What are some of the challenges facing interventional radiologists in the future? Nowadays it’s becoming more difficult to get referrals from other members of the hospital staff. More and more, vascular surgeons and interventional cardiologists see no reason why they shouldn’t go ahead and perform interventional procedures. The era of the interventionalist having a franchise on these studies is basically over. He or she who controls the interventional lab will not necessarily see all of the patients who come in for these studies. As a result, the success of the whole field is going to depend on the interventional radiologist being able to develop his own practice.
What would you change about the current state of interventional radiology? I would like to see radiologists take the approach that cardiologists and surgeons have taken for years and conduct significantly more clinical research. Such studies will bring about a much better understanding of the outcomes that they are achieving. Unless we begin to conduct and document thorough clinical and basic research, I fear we’re going to experience a decrease in the number of patients we see, because I’m convinced that whoever does the best research will ultimately control the whole field. Those practitioners rightfully become the acknowledged experts.
How can interventional radiologists stay involved in the field of endovascular therapies? We need to start by going out and meeting the public. The field of minimally invasive therapies has a great future. Exactly who will ultimately perform these procedures is going to depend how successful interventional radiologists are in maintaining what they’ve had in the past. They must market intelligently and see that patients recognize the importance of the specialty. There are many very exciting developments out there, but it behooves interventionalists to make sure that they are part of it.