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Q&A with SIR President Matthew S. Johnson, MD, FSIR 

05-25-2022 15:42

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SIR TODAY 2022 | May 25, 2022

Matthew S. Johnson, MD, FSIR, will complete his tenure as SIR president during the Annual Members' Business Meeting on Tuesday, June 14, noon1 p.m. SIR Today spoke with Dr. Johnson about his presidency, his upcoming plans and areas of focus, and the future of IR.

When you became president, you said you expected one of the most significant challenges to be COVID-19. How would you say the specialty and the society have weathered that experience?

Matthew S. Johnson, MD, FSIR: COVID-19 has been horrible, hands down. But I do think IR has done a great job of meeting the challenges created by the pandemic. Our members showed up and used the opportunity to demonstrate the value of IR to our hospitals. We walked the walk and cared for patients, and that was seen. I’m very proud of us.

The society also did a great job. We continue to do our societal business and actually accomplished a lot during a time of great stress. We expanded our virtual education and learned to maximize the tools and integrations to make education more regular and accessible. But on that same note, it’s also demonstrated the huge value of in-person relationships. We recently were able to meet in person for an Executive Council meeting, and I’m so excited about seeing members in person at the upcoming annual meeting.

Outside of overcoming some COVID challenges, what were some other opportunities you saw for the society last year?

MJ: It’s hard to extract the past year from COVID, to be honest. My entire presidency was during COVID, and it has been in the background of almost everything. And it contributed to the two biggest opportunities we encountered, which were the need for better communication and functionality.

We are improving that via the government restructure—which was already in progress, but working in a difficult environment made that evolution even more important. The details of the governance evolution may not be visible to most members, but it still matters, because it will allow us to better meet the goals of our society in the long term.

Was there anything you wanted to accomplish that, for whatever reason, you feel like you weren’t able to?

MJ: My two large goals coming in were launching VIRTEX and helping to internationalize IR. VIRTEX is out but, for obvious reasons, I haven’t been able to work much on the globalization of IR, which is disappointing. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in Africa working with the local communities, and as president I’d hoped to build upon the work of those before me—particularly Brian Stainken. I hope that as we come out of the pandemic, I can return to that work abroad and work with CIRSE and other organizations to help envision a world where provision of care is guaranteed.

What about VIRTEX? Do you plan to continue promoting VIRTEX after your presidency?

MJ: Absolutely. VIRTEX is live, but not enough people understand it, so I absolutely plan to continue advocating for and educating the community about it. It’s a daunting endeavor, but it’s so crucial for the specialty. Because I have been involved in SIR leadership for several years, I've been able to see the long-term big picture—and VIRTEX has to be a part of that.

Why is VIRTEX so important?

MJ: It’s clear that our membership needs to demonstrate to hospitals, payers and insurance carriers that what we do not only has value, but it improves quality and length of life without an enormous cost. But we do have costs, and very specialized equipment, and so while we say we are cheaper, better and faster, we need concrete data to prove that—not just anecdotes or research pulled from various studies.

We need a standardized approach. We have to define the terms and make them compliant with all systems the FDA has pushed through and make sure they’ll fulfill the needs of CMS and the industry.

And then it’s like magic. The data is just there. I view this as an absolute necessity for the society.

Have you shared any advice with incoming president Parag J. Patel, MD, MS, FSIR?

MJ: It’s interesting, because "advice" suggests I know things better—so I wouldn’t even for a moment try to give advice. But I do give suggestions and have conversations where everyone involved learns something. But in conversations with Parag—and Alda, and Mike, and Bob—we all agree that, to move SIR forward, we need better communication, name recognition and the ability to empower our volunteers. These are all accomplished by efforts like the governance evolution and VIRTEX. How we get there is different, and the details will change, but the global vision—of making patients better, improving global care, having solid data and helping patients learn who we are—is a shared one.

Do you have any suggestions for SIR members in general?

MJ: Don’t be a planarian. You know, one of those microscopic creatures that will move if you shine a light on it. Don’t be that. Don’t trust others to take care of you and advocate for you. Be a doer. Don’t move away from the light—be the one shining it.



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