Incoming SIR President Laura Findeiss, MD, FSIR, is chief of service for Radiology, Grady Hospital, and professor of vascular and interventional radiology at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
She will speak at Wednesday’s Closing Plenary, which starts at 10:30 a.m. in Hall 5. Before SIR 2019 started, Dr. Findeiss talked with SIR Today about the society and interventional radiology. Answers were edited for length and clarity.
Why did you choose interventional radiology?
I wanted to be a family doctor when I went to medical school but fell in love with surgery. After a couple of years, I decided I didn’t want that worked for a year as a doing emergency medicine in rural communities in Tennessee. I accidentally fell into radiology. mostly because I liked the particular program and it just felt right to me. I was a little bit of a fish out of water in the in the diagnostic radiology world. I was the one that always jumped up and ran to codes and put lines in, so IR ended up a perfect combination of the things that appealed to me.
Interestingly, I had an interventional radiology procedure when I was 19, but after the procedure I had rounds and followed up with vascular surgeons. Until I actually started in IR, I never made the connection, and as patient, I didn't recognize IR was a specialty. That’s really been very informative for me in the way I practice. We do a good job doing procedures, but we need to make sure that people kind of know who we are and how we contribute to their care.
What does SIR mean to you?
We share this incredible passion for what we do. I've been involved in other organizations related to other specialties, but I think there's something special about interventional radiologists I’ve appreciated being around people that reinforce our passion for the field. And as I've gotten to know SIR better, the commitment that the organization has to foster success in interventional radiology provides such a tremendous resource advocating specifically on behalf of interventional radiologists. SIR is a great community, and it's also providing a tremendous service.
What about interventional radiology gives you the greatest satisfaction?
The creativity we bring to the table. You know, we have this, we have this combination of an understanding of medical imaging, a broad-based perspective on disease and an understanding of the anatomy and physiology of disease, and then we have this tool set that enables us to create answers for problems. You are presented a problem, you look at the imaging, you understand the patient, you look at your tools and ask yourself what can you do to create a solution. And the minimally invasive component of it is so important. Being able to do everything through this tiny little hole is tremendous because the recovery for patients is so much better than the alternative.
You are the first SIR president who has participated in the Leadership Development Academy. How has affected your career an SIR experiences?
The academy came at a very important time in my career. I was transitioning out of a job and it gave me the opportunity to meet the person who ultimately gave me my next job, which gave me my probably greatest career opportunity. That networking component was huge, not just that individual, but all of the, the people in my cohort who are all doing amazing things. Networking with leadership and networking with my cohort of passionate, smart and energetic people who were IR forward—it was a combination of all those things.
What opportunities for IR do you see?
We have a lot of on untapped opportunity in terms of the ability to create access for populations to the things that we do. We've been in a growth mode understanding and recognizing what we bring to the table, but that’s mostly been in urban areas and academic centers. We’ve developed a new standard of care for a lot of diseases, so now we really need to look at how we can impact outcomes for everyone. Domestically, we're developing a big focus on access and equity. Access to an interventional radiologist in non-urban environments is very limited, which we believe impact outcomes. And on a global scale, we’re actively engaging to ensure that the global population has increasing access to the things that interventional radiologists can provide to improve health.
And there’s something that ties into both of those things, and that’s recognizing the importance of diversity in our specialty. How do we get diverse minds to the table so that we’re hearing all perspectives? That really comes out in the global conversation and seeing how problems are being solved elsewhere—being open to different ways of thinking and learning from those environments as well as helping to teach the most environments.
What are some of the challenges ahead?
Our changing training paradigm creates opportunities, but it also creates some risks. We've made some big promises to trainees because we believe in those promises 100 percent, but we need to deliver on the promises by giving the right tools to people as they're coming out to be successful in the way that we've promoted that they’re going to be able to practice in the changing health care environment.
We’re going to see modifications to the Affordable Care Act and some instability on the landscape going forward. Nobody knows what the future of health care delivery will look like, so that creates a lot of challenges. We need to make sure our society is at the table as decisions are being made so that we don't see our membership gets disenfranchised either in terms of access, practice opportunities or reimbursement.
What are your goals for your presidency, and what will make your term successful?
Access is a big one. Over the next year, I'd like for us to really dive in and understand what access looks for communities to get the services that we provide. And what does it mean for those communities that don't have access, what are the disparities and outcomes? I want us to help our trainees as they're finishing training to understand how there are opportunities in those communities to really make a difference and to have very satisfying practices that connect our access mission with our workforce mission, which is to make sure that our trainees get out and to practice the way that they want to practice. There's a synergy as we create an understanding of what the access challenges are with what we're hoping for our workforce, which is to find satisfying interventional radiology jobs in great communities where they can make a difference.
We’re also working on a construct for our longitudinal interventional radiology curriculum, a sort of lifelong learning that will provide both the clinical and the practice management tools that people need both coming out of training but as they move through their careers. Making more progress is a big goal of mine.
How has the field changed since you first started?
What our practices look like on a day-to-day basis is very different from what they look like when I started, and that's a good thing. That means we're innovating. It creates much more of a sense of security that as we see some of the procedures that we invent get taken up by other specialties, it’s not death knell for us. We used to think it was. But it's becomes harder to innovate in some ways because the regulatory environment is different. When I first started, we were able to just kind of tell the patient that we came up with this idea and we are going to do it. It now can be better for the patient but a little more challenging for the specialty. We have a great debt to our early innovators because they created and took risks.
The between, you know, risk and innovation that's become a little different. Also, the clinical practice paradigm has finally reached its tipping point, which is tremendous because that makes a huge difference for how we're going to be perceived in the health care landscape in the future.