Marianne Matthews

Imaging equipment gets its close-up during the final 15 minutes of Michael Moore’s new film Sicko. We see slow pans of shining MRI and CT machines. Cut to a relaxed, satisfied patient undergoing an abdominal ultrasound. Poignant music underscores a series of what can only be described as “beauty” shots—striking close-ups of x-rays and colorful computer-generated images. Between the tight shots and the touching score, you can’t help but get that heartwarming feeling about the miracle of medicine. Too bad it all takes place in Havana Hospital.

Mr Moore’s point, of course, is that these vulnerable patients were denied access to the very technology and treatments they so needed in the United States. Well, Mr. Moore is an artist, not a journalist. We need not take everything he points to as “gospel.” Moore can’t be expected to be objective. His job is to take a position and tell a story—and he does so in a very compelling manner.

Artists have long played a key role in every society. They serve to awaken and enlighten us. Really great artists insist that we do our own soul-searching.

Quality health care in the United States eludes so many American citizens. But what are we—individually and collectively—doing about it? What is the medical imaging community doing to ensure access to health care consumers ? and access to institutions that need the equipment to prevent, diagnose, and treat an array of diseases?

Recent news gave me a boost. On the national front, The New York Times (July 23, 2007) reports that House Democrats have drafted a plan that calls for many major changes in Medicare, including the right of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to expand Medicare coverage of preventive services like certain disease-detection screenings.

On the local level, an Oregon insurance payor recently withdrew its previously announced policy that would have eliminated reimbursement for computer-aided detection (CAD) used with all imaging studies, including mammography. The move came days before the new policy was scheduled to take effect. A happy reversal of fortune for patients and providers.

But how about access by institutions to the many modalities we cover in Medical Imaging ? With limited capital budgets, purchasing medical equipment can sometimes prove prohibitive.

On the grassroots level, help is out there. Consider the case of Long Island-based Hagedorn Pediatric Inpatient Center at Winthrop-University Hospital. In May, the Michael Magro Foundation donated a new VeinViewer Imaging System by Luminetx—a patented technology to locate subcutaneous veins and project real-time images of their location onto the surface of the skin. Blood tests and IV treatments are a major concern for young patients, and the new imaging device will go a long way toward making these procedures a lot less stressful for children and parents alike.

I wondered what prompted this small foundation—with a tradition of donating portable televisions, video games, books, and the like—to suddenly step up to the plate with a donation of medical imaging equipment. So I phoned Terrie Magro, founder of the 503C and mother of Michael Magro, a young man who passed away in July 2004 after a courageous battle with leukemia. She said that when one of the physicians approached her with the idea, “It was very overwhelming at first. But then I realized that this innovative equipment fit right in with our mission, which is to provide comfort and help the kids have a little bit of a better day.” (Visit

Why this “grassroots” story? No deed is too small. Whether you are a national, regional, or local player in the field of medical imaging, you can make a difference.

? Getting back to art, I think we should all take a page out of the unofficial actor’s guide that says, “There are no small roles, only small actors.” When your close-up arrives, will you look and perform your best?

Marianne Matthews, editor