Governance, Mission, Growth

By Cat Vasko

RSNA Preview: BOOST Bolsters Bond Between Radiation Oncologists and Diagnostic Radiologists
Rival Towns Join Forces on World-Class Imaging Center

RSNA Preview: BOOST Bolsters Bond Between Radiation Oncologists and Diagnostic Radiologists

A new program at the 2007 annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), Chicago, will focus on encouraging radiation oncologists and diagnostic radiologists to forge new partnerships. The Bolstering Oncoradiologic and Oncoradiotherapeutic Skills for Tomorrow (BOOST) agenda includes a 4-day range of courses led by top experts from a number of subspecialties, according to the June issue of RSNA News.

“The practice of radiation oncology today requires precision in knowing where the cancer is located,” Sarah S. Donaldson, MD, associate chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, deputy clinic chief, and residency program director for radiation oncology at Stanford University Medical Center and Catherine and Howard Avery Professor of Radiation Oncology at Stanford School of Medicine, told the RSNA News. “Radiation oncologists today have to work closely with diagnostic radiologists because if we know where the cancer is located, we know better where to treat. This new synergy of precision imaging for use in precision therapy has just unfolded. It’s a wonderful way to get both disciplines working hand in hand.”

The daylong BOOST courses focus on one type of cancer each day: head and neck, prostate, lung, and gastrointestinal. Experts will urge attendees to work together via audience participation exercises and question-and-answer sessions.

The first part of each day will consist of a refresher course, with a focus on the oncologic principles of the disease site in question, the biology and pathophysiology and anatomy, using high-tech imaging to visualize each. Later in the day, scientific papers and case studies will look at the latest developments in each area.

“We’ll see what’s new out there, what the different imaging approaches are, and what’s on the horizon for radiation oncologists and diagnostic radiologists to use in a specific disease site to improve diagnosis and treatment,” explained Steven Leibel, MD, medical director of the Stanford Cancer Center and professor of radiation oncology at Stanford University.

The latter part of each day will be dedicated to the practical aspects of radiation oncology. “We’re looking at radiation target volumes, the proper volume to treat, and the best imaging modality to identify what to treat,” said Leibel. “We really want to focus on a disease site and emphasize all the issues around its imaging and treatment, but also present papers and special lectures on radiation biology and the role of interventional radiology and offer some panel discussions.”

Leibel said he is most excited about having diagnostic radiology represented on-site via multimodality presentations. “The radiologists are going to tell us, ‘Here’s how it spreads, this is how we image it, this is the role of PET imaging.’ It’s a unique way to allow the two disciplines to play off each other.”

Rival Towns Join Forces on World-Class Imaging Center

The north Texas towns of Sherman and Denison have a long-standing rivalry that ranges from football to medicine. But Sherman Radiology Associates and Radiology Associates of Denison are bringing the two together at last in an elaborate joint venture that will result in the most comprehensive, high-tech imaging center in the region: Advanced Medical Imaging of North Texas.

“These two communities have tried to do football stadiums and convention centers together, and they’ve never quite been able to make it work,” recalled Charles Phelps, MD, of Sherman Radiology Associates. Phelps knows both towns well: he was raised in Denison, he went to college in Sherman, and his wife is a pediatrician in Denison. “Now we finally have these neighbors working together on a project.”

The joint venture is especially interesting because it also involves two local hospitals: Texoma Medical Center in Denison and Wilson N. Jones Medical Center in Sherman. Advanced Medical Imaging of North Texas is a limited partnership with equal ownership by all four parties; the general partnership, charged with management of the facility, is owned by the two radiology groups.

“I think everybody was initially skeptical that this could happen,” said Mark Martin, founder of Optima Imaging, LLC, the consulting company that facilitated the formation of the joint venture as well as the design of the facility and equipment selection. “We had to bring everyone to the table, sit down with them and be straightforward, talk about the pluses and minuses, and get them comfortable with the idea that this venture could benefit all of them.”

Of course, it’s not just the radiology groups and hospitals that will benefit from the arrangement; the real winners are the patients in the area, who will have access to some of the finest imaging technology available. “Instead of one group putting in a low-tech center, we’re going to put in a world-class center for our community,” said Phelps, who was instrumental in getting the project off the ground. “We’re going to have a 3T magnet, a 64-slice CT; we’re going to provide the best outpatient imaging available anywhere in this part of the state.” In addition, the facility will have digital radiography, fluoroscopy. and ultrasound, and the technology infrastructure will be completely digital and fully integrated.

Martin explained, “It’s been Dr Phelps’ goal to develop an imaging center like this for years. But the more you can get people involved with a vested interest in the long-term prospects, the more successful a center will be. To that end, we developed the concept of equal ownership with a radiologist-driven management structure.”

Both Martin and Phelps emphasize the importance of a strong sense of community to the venture. “Even though this is a limited partnership, we’ve been very focused on keeping all the parties involved throughout the decision-making process,” said Martin. “We’re keeping the hospital partners involved. We’re dealing with key physicians in each radiology group and key decision makers at the hospitals. We talk at a global level and are able to effect decisions that benefit the community as well as the individual partners.”

Phelps concurs. “We’re trying to include all the local folks and contractors as well,” he said. “This is a community thing. It’s going to be a win-win for the hospitals and radiology groups. Instead of one individual or group going out and trying to corner the market, it’s going to be a community service, and everyone will come out ahead.”

The center, which is slated to open January 1 after a slew of weather-related construction delays, will be staffed from the existing radiology groups, and technologists and administrative staff will be hired anew. Because neither of the hospitals involved has a 64-slice CT or 3T MRI, it is already poised to lead the imaging market in the region.

“The only way a venture like this is possible is when hospital administration and radiologists see beyond how things have historically been done,” Martin said. “We saw that if we didn’t do this, someone else would. It’s been a long process, but it’s also been an enjoyable process. The partners’ collective vision is what made it possible.”