Two Venerable Organizations Explore a Shared Future

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With a dramatically increased need for professional education made necessary by maintenance of certificate requirements, the ACR and the ARRS are in talks to collaborate—and possibly merge

This is not the first time that radiology’s senior society, the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS), has considered joining forces with the more junior ACR to meet members’ needs better. Four years ago, cultural differences stymied the effort, but it was resurrected last year through informal talks among senior leaders of both organizations. Discussions are currently underway to explore a closer collaboration between the two organizations, including the potential for a complete merger. Anton Hasso, MD, professor of the department of radiological sciences and director of neuroimaging research and development at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine and past president of the ARRS, agreed to share his perspective on the project with the readers of Radiology Business Journal.

RBJ: Please describe the respective roles of the ACR and ARRS in serving the specialty. 

Hasso: The ARRS has a very narrow focus, which is to serve as a medium for education for all radiologists. It has a strong focus toward general radiology, but we also cover the subspecialist, and our program for the annual meeting is geared along all the subspecialties. It is basically education for radiologists, and in this day and age, it includes not just the journal and the annual meeting, but things like online CME and means for certification (being able to qualify for it with various courses) that can be taken online.
On the other hand, the ACR represents all of radiology in multiple areas. The largest area is socioeconomics, but also standards and accreditation, which have become a major focus of the ACR. Out of its 350 staff people, I’ve heard approximately 125 are involved with accreditation. It also is involved in research, the ACR Imaging Network trials, and developing new programs in education.
It has built the new education center in Reston, Va, across the street from the headquarters building, where people get hands-on time on various workstations
—for example PET/CT, CT colonography, and MR angiography—in hands-on courses that usually run the better part of a week, and involve a certificate based on how many cases an individual can participate in and diagnose during that period of time.  The ACR is most important, of course, in government relations: things like lobbying, congressional visits, and direct testimony on legislation on a national level. That is the focus of the ACR.

RBJ: How did this idea of collaboration emerge, and why is it attractive to the ARRS?

Hasso: It started informally with Arl Van Moore, Jr, MD, and me, discussing some of the options that might be available to the two groups. One focus that we both have, individually as well as with the societies that we represent, is the AMA. Van Moore is the head of the ACR delegation to the AMA, and I happen to be one of the members of the delegation, so we spend a lot of time together discussing things; that is why this started.
Previous discussions of a merger, some four years ago, fell apart because, I think, the ACR was not sensitive to the unique culture of the ARRS, which I described to you as one focused on education and not one for any other purpose. Van Moore felt that in his role as chair of the chancellors, and now president, of the ACR, there was enough commonality, particularly as the ACR is becoming more and more involved in education. It has made this major investment in the education center, and it has other programs that have been developed, including regional courses. We go around the country and hold courses for radiologists, and in many cases, not only are we covering the same topics, but also we may have the same speakers.
Why not combine these? Why not hold everything from a joint meeting to joint regional courses? It is not inconceivable, in the future, that we would have one journal; certainly the electronic versions of what we do could be integrated. Why are we duplicating? We have a couple of things I think we do very, very well, and it would be nice to share them with a larger audience. The annual meeting continues to increase in size, and there could be some way of organizing our meetings so that they are in succession, or even at the same time.

RBJ: How much overlap is there in membership?

Hasso: How many members of the ACR are not currently