Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. N. Reed Dunnick, Radiological Society of North America

Osmosis Team
Published on Jul 3, 2014. Updated on Invalid date.

Dr. N. Reed Dunnick serves as President of the Radiological Society of North America. He is committed to improving the quality of patient care in the radiologic sciences. We were excited to speak with Dr. Dunnick about his pursuit of radiology and the changes that he wishes to see in the medical field.

How did you decide on a career in medicine?   

When in college, I looked at how people in different professions viewed their jobs. Many seemed bored after only a few years. Medicine offered the opportunity to help people and since each patient is unique, the challenges varied every day.

What made you pick radiology as your specialty?  

I loved the images. My first experience was with chest radiography, and I realized that one chest film revealed so much more than I could learn from chest auscultation. My next encounter was an excretory urogram (IVP) where I was fascinated with the physiology of water soluble contrast media injected intravenously. You could even vary the technique to optimally answer the clinical question.

As President of the Radiological Society of North America, what advancements do you wish to see in the field of radiology or in the medical field in general?   

Clinical trials research. We have made tremendous discoveries in the laboratory, but must do a better job of translating those to patient care protocols, and we need to conduct clinical trials to test their effectiveness. We must also harness the power of our imaging technology, making radiology examinations more quantitative and using them as imaging biomarkers.


In your biography on the RSNA website, you noted that the field of radiology is transitioning from 'volume-based imaging' to 'value-based imaging'. What do you believe will be the biggest obstacle during this transition?  
There are plenty of obstacles. First, we must better understand what value-based imaging really means.  We need to think in terms of what brings value to the patient, but must also be cognizant of the costs.   That brings me to the second great challenge. While there is widespread agreement that our healthcare system is too expensive, it is difficult to find ways to make it cheaper, without withholding services or letting the quality deteriorate. Finally, even if we solve both of these challenges, how do we make the transition? How do we move to value-based imaging while we are still being paid for volume-based imaging?

How do you foresee these changes and/or other changes impacting medical education in the next few years? 

The emphasis in academic medicine has already moved from education first to patient care and safety first. It is more difficult to give trainees graded responsibility, to let them make decisions on their own.   We are also seeing changes in how people learn. Medical students, residents and fellows no longer rely on reading a standard textbook. Instead there is more “just in time” learning. The internet, with immediate access to an enormous data set, makes it feasible to look up information on each patient we encounter. There are other changes occurring in medical education: fewer lectures, smaller classrooms and more individualized training. The “flipped classroom” seems to be a great advance that will help learners progress at their own pace and result in more durable learning.