SIR has increasingly taken leadership roles in global statements on the efficacy of IR—such as with the recent statement on stroke, developed in collaboration with the Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiological Society of Europe (CIRSE) and the Interventional Radiology Society of Australasia (IRSA). SIR has become a disruptive force in this arena in the best possible way, holding ongoing discussions with other specialties in the stroke thrombectomy space.
In addition to new alliances in the world of clinical medicine, we are establishing partnerships with more external research funders so we can better support work that will lead to NIH grants. The more support we gain, the more impact we’ll make—and the more seriously NIH will take the specialty . . . leading to an ongoing and very healthy cycle of support.
Relationships with governmental entities are also critical, such as working with Congress to fund training slots for IR. It’s an incredibly incremental process: You present to Congress, but when the session is over everything changes and you have to present it again—each time gaining a little traction. Over the last few years, though, we’ve significantly increased our presence on Capitol Hill, convincing new allies of the value of GME funding for new specialties like IR. The society has also developed and built relationships with HHS staff, which includes staff from CMS and the FDA. Most recently, SIR leaders met with Thomas Keane, MD, a senior advisor to the HHS deputy secretary, to discuss policy issues, which includes our interest in developing quality measures for MIPS and our role in practice development. On the FDA front, SIR continues to be involved in the panel of experts network and is preparing for an in-person meeting at FDA headquarters on April 4 between the FDA and SIR leadership.
Another key component in the growth of our partnerships is forming positive relationships with industry—both device manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry. We’ve been very successful in the last year, holding proactive, positive discussions with corporations in the IR space that will undoubtedly lead to improvements in patient care.
I believe we are now well-positioned to speak on an even larger stage, communicating on social issues of public health. Just as we believe in our messaging to other radiological associations, across health care, and to those in the government and private sectors, we can feel confident about speaking on the big issues that impact the health of the general public. One clear example is the opioid crisis. Last year, SIR hosted a Hill briefing on the role that we can play in managing patients’ pain, reducing or eliminating their dependency on opioids.
Another issue of significant public health concern, increasingly prominent in recent news cycles, is gun violence. Many individual physicians have published opinion pieces calling for a reversal of the 22-year-old Dickey amendment, which prohibits federal funding for research into gun violence, with the goal of decreasing death and injury. Because of the different perspectives we all bring to the related issues, though, it’s difficult to focus a gun violence conversation on just research—but association-level support for research funding into studies on gun violence is building.
In November, I started a discussion on SIR Connect (“Is this our lane?”) on the topic to see if, as a specialty, we’re ready to take a stand. Can we be one of the first societies to say that we’re opposed to the current restriction on research into gun violence with the goal of preserving human life? The resulting Open Forum discussion was very healthy and respectful, and I think it is a conversation we can take up again with other societies. If multiple national medical associations combine their voices, I believe we could impact this legislation.
In conclusion, as the voice of a primary specialty, working with and leading the way for other entities, SIR has been able to accomplish much. As a primary specialty, IR needs to think about bigger societal issues—even if we are a relatively small society. After all, what we communicate about may be “business as usual” for interventional radiologists, but it’s a message worth communicating about on a much larger stage—with complete confidence in who we are.