Listening to Tom Petty with Medical Imaging on the Brain

Tom Petty has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. I watched his music videos in awe as a young kid, learned his songs on the guitar as a teenager and saw him play live with the Heartbreakers multiple times as an adult. 

When Petty died unexpectedly on Oct. 2, the world lost a true legend. And like a lot of Petty fans, I reacted to the news by listening to his songs over and over again. It was musical therapy, if you will, and I noticed something new this time around: many of his songs relate to radiology.

For example, Petty may have had love on his mind when he wrote “The Waiting” (“the waaaaaiting is the hardest part...”), but it could just as easily be about CMS and its clinical decision support mandate for advanced imaging services. The mandate was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, but now it keeps getting pushed back. 

In addition, “I Won’t Back Down” works as an anthem for imaging societies such as the American College of Radiology when there’s a new healthcare policy they think could have a negative impact on patient care. And while “Runnin’ Down a Dream” would make the perfect soundtrack for a young medical student contemplating a career in radiology, “I Need to Know” could have been written about impatient referring physicians.

Finally, we should consider the possibility that “Free Fallin’” isn’t really about a good girl who loves her mama. What if it’s actually about the plummeting reimbursements providers find themselves dealing with on a daily basis? 

Petty didn’t really write any of these songs specifically about radiology. But great art—whether it’s a rock song, a play or a classic novel—can be interpreted in any number of different ways. And Petty sure left us a with lot of great art to listen to and analyze.

As always, thanks for reading. I’m thrilled to be “A Face in the Crowd.”