Meet the ACR Leadership: Vice Speaker Richard Duszak Jr., MD, FACR
This post is a reboot of the series titled “Meet the ACR Leadership,” which highlights current ACR leaders by providing insight into their background and involvement in the College. For this installment, we talk with ACR Vice Speaker Richard Duszak Jr., MD, FACR, professor and vice chair for health policy and practice at Emory University School of Medicine and affiliate senior research fellow at the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute®.
- You’re a well-known Philadelphia Eagles fan! Tell us what you loved about your city winning its first Super Bowl championship?
- I grew up in Philly and spent my first 11 years in practice outside of the city, so it was great to see the Eagles (or “Iggles” as we call them back home) go all the way this year. Nick Foles’ underdog story is really inspirational and I personally cherish that message more than the win itself. Everyone has the potential of making it big — if just given a fair chance.
- What is an endearing quality that your colleagues have noted about you?
- When I was an undergraduate at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, my college president introduced me during a freshman orientation program as “divinely discontent.” I wasn’t initially sure if that was a compliment or an insult, but have since embraced the term. I strive to never accept the status quo of mediocrity and sometimes that means rocking the boat. The trick becomes doing it well (i.e., not burning bridges) and doing it for the right reasons (i.e., for the good of the organization and/or others rather than oneself). It’s a delicate balance, but all in all, it’s how one effects important change for the better.
- Could you tell me something about yourself that could help a reader understand what makes you tick?
- We live in a very complex world, with an infinite number of shades of gray when it comes to priorities and agendas. The parts that are always black and white for me, though, are core values: honesty, integrity, transparency, and respect. Those are core guiding principles that should guide leaders — regardless of their station in life or the organization or people they are leading, and I try to always keep them in sight. Whether people succeed or fail in executing their big and audacious goals often comes down to these core principles.
- What are your first memories of your initial involvement with the ACR and what has kept you going since?
- I’m showing my age here, but I had the amazing opportunity as a resident to serve as the ACR’s first Rutherford Fellow in Government Relations in 1993. Spending two weeks on Capitol Hill with Don Lavanty, the ACR’s lead lobbyist then, was a fabulous experience. I learned from him that credibility, reputation, and relationship-building were key to successful advocacy, and have aspired to maintain these as building blocks in my own efforts. The only thing that I’ve added to that list over time from other work with the ACR — founding the Neiman Institute — is making sure that “asks” are evidence-based whenever possible. Evidence-based advocacy has translational health policy research at its very core — and I think represents a huge and ongoing opportunity.
- What sparked your interest and drove your ambitions into the world of health policy?
- Before pivoting to academia a few years ago, I spent almost 20 years in private practice. When I became partner in 1998, I realized that our group was leaving legitimate money on the table, and so spent my own time taking coding courses — and eventually became a radiology certified coder myself. There are huge opportunities for radiology practices to improve their bottom lines if they simply would have more radiologists come out of the reading room and get more engaged in operations. A few people recently joked that I help my current practice more economically when I am not doing clinical work, and I think there’s a bit of truth to that.
- What are recent policies or arenas where the ACR has advocated for its constituents?
- When we started the Neiman Institute in 2012, we realized that prioritizing credibility and relationships alone wasn’t enough to meaningfully influence healthcare policy that impacts radiologists and our patients. Everyone in Washington, D.C., has an opinion, but most of those are based on nothing more than personal perceptions or anecdotes. Having real data to support a point has proven extremely helpful in many ways. The ACR’s most recent “big win” was in reversing the multiple procedure payment reduction — which our recent research has shown will return over $50 million a year into radiologists’ pockets. But, it’s more than winning battles — it’s informing agendas. And so when CMS asks us, for example, to take a leadership role in developing payment models, radiology is ahead of the pack, because we’ve been working on things like bundled payment models for mammography for almost five years. What you say is important, but what you can show is often much more compelling.
- Why stay involved in the ACR after residency or fellowship?
- No organization is working harder to meet your needs — or the needs of your patients — as the ACR. While other professional societies focus more on research and education (which are both very important), the ACR is uniquely positioned to be your professional partner in economics, government relations, advocacy, and health policy. We are some 30,000 members and some 2,000 volunteers strong, and many of those volunteers are able to serve effectively on your behalf because of your membership and dues support — enabling them access to an amazingly capable staff and strong war chest of data, information, and other resources. If you stay a member, you’ll get a whole lot in return. And, if you volunteer to serve, you’ll get so much more through insight, perspectives, leadership skills, and an amazing network of colleagues that you will soon call your friends.
- How can I initiate or broaden my involvement in the ACR?
- Reach out to your colleagues and volunteer. And, when you’re asked to serve, say yes. It’s that simple. There are lots of opportunities for residents to get engaged through the RFS, either through committees or higher-level leadership roles. Attend an ACR meeting and participate in the RFS pre-meeting. You’ll rise quickly on your learning curve and be able to identify key opportunities and challenges where you may be able to help, as well as identify colleagues and mentors to help you get become more engaged. Every marathon starts with a first step. Mine was when I applied for the Rutherford Fellowship — and I’ve never looked back.
Christopher Mutter, DO, is ACR-RFS secretary and a diagnostic radiology resident at Spectrum Health Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.