The Rutherford Experience

Radiology chief resident spends a week embedded in government relations.rutherford experience

During the fall of 2011, radiology resident Bhavya Rehani, MD, spent a week with the ACR Government Relations Department in Washington, D.C., as the J.T. Rutherford Government Relations Fellow. The fellowship is named in honor of the first ACR lobbyist and was founded in 1993 to give radiology residents a better understanding of government's role in radiology.

It's also an opportunity for fellows to discover the importance of taking an active role in state and federal legislative and regulatory processes. The ACR Bulletin asked Rehani about her experience. Rehani is currently a neuroradiology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

Overall, how would you describe your week as the J.T. Rutherford fellow?

rutherford experience headshotIt was an action-packed week, and the fellowship in Washington D.C., was a great experience. The deadline for a proposal by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was approaching at that time, so ACR Government Relations staff and RADPAC® had to accomplish many related activities.

The fellowship offered a nice peek into the busy lives of staff. I also attended fundraisers as well as multiple ACR meetings. It was an enlightening experience to meet senators and congressional representatives and discuss current legislative issues that impact radiology.

What most impressed you about working with ACR staff?

I was particularly impressed by the hardwork and exceptional dedication of the ACR Government Relations staff and RADPAC to protecting the interests of radiology. It is a 24/7, on-call job, and staff spend a considerable amount of time to ensure they are aware of the latest developments that could affect imaging. They also work to maintain a strong presence on Capitol Hill and to advance interests of the radiology community.

“Many on Capitol Hill don’t truly understand the significance of medical imaging. It is critical to have your voice heard on legislative issues that directly affect the future of radiology.” — Bhavya Rehani, MD

What about your experience would you like to share with fellow residents?

It is really important that residents get involved in government relations efforts. During my discussion with congressional staff, it was clear to me that representatives like to hear directly from radiologists. Unlike other medical specialties, which have direct patient contact, radiologists often act behind the scenes in our dark rooms to make the lives of patients better. Thus, many on Capitol Hill don't truly understand the significance of medical imaging. It is critical to have your voice heard on legislative issues that directly affect the future of radiology.

What current federal legislative issues impact radiology?

There are many issues, but concerns that have recently taken center stage include the multiple procedure payment reduction as it is applied to the professional component of reimbursement, the increased utilization rate, the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate Formula, and the controversial preauthorization of medical imaging, just to name a few. In addition, self-referral continues to affect radiology practice.

How can residents get involved in government relations?

The J.T. Rutherford Government Relations Fellowship is an excellent opportunity to be part of the action. Residents can also support the efforts of ACR Government Relations by staying up-to-date on initiatives discussed on the RADPAC Facebook page and Twitter (@RADPAC) and through attending AMCLC. In addition, the website contains valuable information about the various ways in which radiologists can help legislative efforts.

What are your future plans?

I am starting my neuroradiology fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. However, apart from neuroradiology, I will continue to pursue my interest in health policy.

How would you encourage the residents and fellows to apply for ACR J.T. Rutherford fellowship?

I believe what Abraham Lincoln once said: "You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." Is is of paramount importance to take responsibility for the future of our great specialty and learn about legislative issues today that will impact it tomorrow. The fellowship gives a unique opportunity to meet the congressional representatives and senators to discuss health policy and radiology and develop an understanding of how to make your voice heard on Capitol Hill.

By Brett Hansen

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