Living the Legacy

Radiologists celebrate the first annual International Day of the legacy

On the evening on Nov. 8, 1895, in a dark laboratory, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen saw a shimmering light coming from his work bench as he ran electricity through a tube encased in black paper and filled with low-pressure gas.

Striking a match to light the room, he saw that the sparkle came from a paper plate covered on one side with barium platinocyanide. Upon investigation, Roentgen discovered that the fluorescent sparkle was caused by a new type of ray. Several weeks after that fateful night, he recorded the first X-ray image — his wife's hand — on a photographic plate.

Most, if not all, radiologists know the details from that eventful November night. But whatever their recollection, members of the specialty received a reminder on Nov. 8, 2012, in the form of the first annual International Day of Radiology, which was created by the ACR, European Society of Radiology, and Radiology Society of North America.

Certainly, Roentgen could not have predicted that 117 years after his discovery, the worldwide radiology community would celebrate his revolutionary finding and its application to medicine. But on top of their salute to the X-ray and its pioneer, radiologists came together on this special day to shine a collective spotlight on the tremendous contributions of their distinguished specialty.

Imaging Saves Lives

To help the public understand the continuing impact of radiology, the ACR and the RSNA developed a newly updated website in conjunction with the International Day of Radiology — — and a series of talking points for radiologists and their staff to use when discussing radiology's legacy and current value. The talking points describe how "more than a century of radiological research has produced great technological leaps, enabled more effective and efficient cure, saved countless lives, and revolutionized modern medicine." For example, did you know that the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) named imaging one of the top 10 medical advances of the last millenium? Or that the U.S. National Academy of Engineering ranked imaging among the 20 greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century?

In addition to expounding on the greatness of imaging in its historical context, the ACR and RSNA encouraged radiologists to explain radiology's role in saving lives, time, and resources. In fact, according to the NEJM, imaging exams reduce the number of invasive surgeries, unnecessary hospital admissions, and the length of hospital stays. Moreover, scans generally cost less than surgical procedures and help reduce deaths caused by cancer and other diseases.

Paul H. Ellenbogen, MD, FACR, chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors, says, "Millions of people are alive worldwide, and many more enjoy a greater quality of life today, because of advances in radiation therapy to treat many of the world's deadliest cancers. The International Day of Radiology recognizes one of the most successful technological and professional episodes in the history of modern health care."

Defending the Goal

The International Day of Radiology allowed radiologists not only to celebrate the tremendous benefits and contributions their specialty has made in the field of medicine, but it also enabled physicians in the United States to express their opposition to medical imaging reimbursement cuts by Congress. The ACR and the RSNA provided their members with resources, including the information to help educate policymakers and the public about the impact of such cuts. The information, for example, cites a 2011 study in Health Affairs that found approximately 12,000 senior citizens may have suffered broken bones because of Medicare cuts to dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, which measures bone density.

Further, many imaging providers have been forced to cut down on staff or close altogether. The FDA states that 200 fewer mammography facilities and 1,200 fewer mammography scanners operate today than in 2007. "These closures are likely forcing many [patients] to commute farther and wait longer for appointments to receive care," explains Ellenbogen. "These longer commute and wait times may delay diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and injury until the ailments are at advanced stages and can't be as successfully or inexpensively treated."

The College, RSNA, and other radiology organizations believe that Congress should engage in more proactive efforts to ensure that scans are appropriate and radiation dose is optimal rather than making drastic and often unwarranted cuts to reimbursement.
Regardless of Congress' future actions, the College continues the indelible legacy established by Wilhelm Roentgen with its accreditation programs, Appropriateness Criteria®, clinical research endeavors, and the strong support of its members. For more information about the International Day of Radiology, visit To find out more about the ACR and International Day of Radiology, check out

By Brett Hansen

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