• Part 8: The Golden Era

  • During the postwar years, RSNA leaders, such as 1951 Society President John S. Bouslog, MD, noted increasing diversity in the organization's membership. For example, during World War II, many women were trained as radiologic technologists to replace the men who went overseas to fight. By the 1950s, some of these women had completed training to become radiologists. Also, more radiologists from the American Southwest and Mexico were joining the RSNA. To accommodate these members, Radiology Editor Howard P. Doub, MD, began to print summaries of journal articles in Spanish.

    Formation of New Radiologic Societies 

    With the expansion of radiology came the creation of new organizations focusing on specialized aspects of the field. Between the end of World War II and 1970, approximately 30 new radiology societies were formed, including the Association of University Radiologists in 1953, the Society of Nuclear Medicine in 1956, the American Club of Therapeutic Radiologists in 1958, and the International Society of Radiographers and Radiological Technicians and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine in 1959. The RSNA attempted to develop collaborative, rather than competitive, relationships with these new groups. However, a few radiologists, preferring to limit their work to the new subspecialties, began abandoning the older professional societies. In particular, some therapeutic radiologists believed organizations, such as the RSNA and the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS), were too focused on the use of x-rays for diagnostic purposes, not as a method to treat cancer. The therapists were frustrated further by the ARRS, which, unlike the RSNA, eventually chose to withdraw support of therapeutic radiology at its annual meetings and in its official publication, the American Journal of Roentgenology.

    By 1952, the RSNA annual meeting convened at the Netherland Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati. This location gave RSNA meeting planners, led by Society President Joseph C. Bell, MD, and Secretary-Treasurer Donald S. Childs, MD, an opportunity to expand the scientific program to include more papers and discussions in the allied sciences.

    Support for Research Limited 

    By the 1950s, the Society's financial health was good, but support for research by the RSNA was still limited. The Society's bylaws prohibited spending the principal of the Memorial Fund, safely in an account established by Dr Childs. Between 1950 and 1953, interest from the Fund was contributed to the National Society for Medical Research. Alternatively, the Society, led in 1953 by President Ira H. Lockwood, MD, welcomed and supported the establishment of the James Picker Foundation, which initially funded three radiology-related research projects.

    Meanwhile, W. Walter Wasson, MD, who had helped create the Memorial Fund in 1927, was becoming more alarmed by the lack of support for research. He decided to renew interest in the Fund and, with the approval of the Society's Executive Committee, established the Memorial Fund Lecture, which subsequently became a traditional Plenary Session at the RSNA annual meeting. The lecturer, usually a young radiologist doing noteworthy studies, received a stipend from the Society. The first lecturer was Rollin K. McCombs, MD, from Berkeley, CA.

    By 1954, RSNA membership had topped 2,500, and Eugene P. Pendergrass, MD, was the RSNA president. Dr Pendergrass had become a prominent Society leader in 1937 as a member of the Inter-Society Committee that had met in Atlantic City to save the major radiologic societies from financial disaster. By the 1950s, he was perhaps better known as a chairman at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center where he had developed one of the finest training programs for radiologists in the country. Many physicians who went through Dr Pendergrass's program became important leaders in the field for the remainder of the century.

    Cramped Meetings at the Palmer House 

    In the middle 1950s, RSNA presidents Thomas B. Bond, MD, and then Clarence E. Hufford, MD, recognized nuclear medicine as an officially accepted component of radiology. This led to an expansion of the RSNA scientific program when more papers and exhibits dealing with nuclear medicine were presented at subsequent RSNA meetings. Additionally, 1957 RSNA President Edgar C. Virden, MD, Dr Childs, and the Executive Committee had to modify the annual meeting program to meet the demand for more Refresher Courses. That year's Scientific Assembly was held at Chicago's Palmer House, but space was becoming increasingly insufficient. Many Society members had to stay at other Chicago hotels and walked or took a taxi to attend the meeting at the Palmer House. The commercial exhibitors began complaining of cramped quarters. Consequently, plans were drawn up to add 3,000 square feet of exhibition space to the hotel to accommodate 89 technical exhibitors by 1962. In the meantime, the 1958 meeting, also held in the Palmer House and overseen by RSNA President Leo R. Rigler, MD, was also a crowded affair.

    Despite these discomforts, the Palmer House remained an optimal venue for the RSNA meeting due to its convenient location and the now longstanding cooperative relationship between hotel managers and the Society. Consequently, the 1959 Scientific Assembly was also held at the Palmer House. The prevailing mood of this meeting, led by RSNA President Lawrence L. Robbins, MD, was optimism about scientific advancement, brought on by the nation's fast-developing space program and the increased interest Americans—specifically American students—had in mathematics and science. The theme of the meeting was "The Future of Radiology." Picker and General Electric were developing remote-controlled radiographic units. Other scientists were showing how huge computers, initially developed by the federal government, could be used to facilitate diagnostic radiology. RSNA membership reached 3,297. The Golden Era of scientific development, which had begun a decade before, looked as if it would continue. However, the 1960s would be more turbulent for the United States and the RSNA than anyone at the 1959 meeting could imagine.

    Howard P. Doub, MD President 1938
    Eugene P. Pendergrass, MD President 1954

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