Harvey Neiman, MD, was recently named the new executive director of the American College of Radiology (ACR), and this bold and important decision generated tremendous excitement among radiologists throughout the country. Harvey understands the culture of the College; he can work effectively with the physician leadership and the professional staff; and he has the skills to address the major issues facing the specialty.

Reinvigorating relationships with regulators and legislators, addressing the personnel shortage (both physician and technologist), and strengthening the long-term financial position of the College are tasks that will demand tact, innovation, and patience. Dr Neiman is up to the challenge.

Lawrence R. Muroff, MD
Imaging Consultants Tampa, Fla

Harvey Neiman, MD

IMAGING ECONOMICS: Dr Neiman, you are the first-ever radiologist executive director of the ACR. What sort of impact might that have on how the organization operates and your ability to drive consensus?

NEIMAN: There won’t be much difference from the standpoint of running the day-to-day business of the College. But as a radiologist, it does put me in a unique position. One thing I’ve done during my time on the Board of Chancellors is to bring all aspects of the College together, in terms of fostering a greater understanding of all aspects of the industry. Hopefully, in terms of driving consensus, my radiology background and experience will put the College in a better position to do just that.

IMAGING ECONOMICS: In general, what do you see as the most pressing issues/priorities to address for ACR? Are there any lingering issues that will receive your immediate attention?

NEIMAN: Obviously, the biggest issue right now is the workforce. We all know that there just aren’t enough radiologists to do the work. To that end, I created a task force here to address that. The College is now looking at how to best deal with the radiologist shortage. Another area of concern is jurisdictional matters. People are becoming increasingly interested in expanding their turf. Also, radiology is continuing to grow due to technology, with molecular imaging being particularly important. We want to really work on getting radiologists up to speed on that.

IMAGING ECONOMICS: How is the College doing with membership retention in light of the major dues raise instituted at the last annual meeting? How can the College attract radiologists who are currently not members and are getting a free ride on the backs of the dues-paying radiologists?

NEIMAN: We are doing amazingly well. The dues increase was actually married with a big cost-cutting effort here. The concern was that there would be a loss of members. There is always some loss, due to people retiring, of course. However, we have gotten many members to re-enroll, so we’re very pleased. My real challenge will be addressing how to attract the small number of radiologists who are not members. How do we get our message to them?

IMAGING ECONOMICS: Leadership is a problem throughout health care, and specifically in radiology. Last year, the ACR identified some 600 department chair and section leadership openings. Do you have any ideas on resolving this problem?

NEIMAN: Basically, all of the departments need to increase the number of trainees. The interest is certainly there, but certain problems such as cap issues and funding have made it difficult. For example, last year there were more than 400 very promising candidates for some of those positions. However, the cap situation prevented most of them from getting those jobs. Also, one thing we really need to do is make sure salaries are better in the academic world. There is quite a sizable gap between private practice and academic practice salaries, and I would like to see that start to change.

IMAGING ECONOMICS: Are there any immediate legislative goals on the horizon?

NEIMAN: My main objective will be to try to get appropriate reimbursement for screening mammography. Our national cost survey showed that it is a money-losing procedure, and markedly inadequate as well. To achieve this goal, we remain dedicated to supporting the Harkin-Snowe bill (which would authorize more funding for mammography and includes a provision for Medicare to pay for three additional radiology slots at each of the 200 radiology residency programs in the United States).

IMAGING ECONOMICS: What is the relationship of the College to other imaging societies? What steps, if any, are being taken to avoid unnecessarily redundant (or even counterproductive) activities?

NEIMAN: The major thrust of the last 2 years has been to work more closely and start meeting more regularly with other societies, such as the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) and the Roentgen Ray Society, in the hopes of trying to foster better relationships. I feel that these relationships are already stronger and better as a result of these efforts. A good example of this is the development of www.radiology.org, the joint Web site of our college and RSNA that was launched several months ago.

IMAGING ECONOMICS: How is the financial health of the College?

NEIMAN: The financial situation is great at the moment. Before last year, we had been using too much of our reserve funds, just as a lot of big corporations do. It has helped us a great deal to get more revenue from the dues increase.

IMAGING ECONOMICS: How has the staff reacted to your appointment? Also, has there been any feedback, either positive or negative, at the grassroots radiologist level?

NEIMAN: I have had an overwhelmingly positive response, particularly via email. Many of those are from other radiologists who have been talking about how excited they are that a radiologist is in this position now.

IMAGING ECONOMICS: The ACR just published a primer for preparedness in the event of a radiation disaster, and the committee chairman, Dr Moore, acknowledged your leadership in forming the committee. In the past, the college has appeared to be more reactive than proactive as it related to public concerns. Will that change under your leadership?

NEIMAN: Yes, it will most certainly change the way I lead the College; I intend on having it become very proactive. The primer is one of the first examples of this new approach. I also have created a task force on human resources, which will be geared toward finding better ways of dealing with the workforce issue. We also recently created a blue-ribbon panel that published new guidelines on MRI safety.

IMAGING ECONOMICS: Are you planning any major organizational changes at ACR?

NEIMAN: At this point, I do not foresee any big changes on the horizon. My position begins on January 1, 2003, and until that time, I will be transitioning slowly into ACR’s campus in Reston, Va. In the immediate future, I will be doing a mini fellowship for 3 months at the National Cancer Institute. Until I take over as executive director of ACR, I will be listening and learning, and basically preparing for the challenges that await me.

Ben Van Houten is associate editor of Decisions in Axis Imaging News.