In a dimly lit basement meeting room at the Palmer House in Chicago in 1982, more than 40 North American thoracic and cardiac radiologists gathered to discuss the founding of a new organization—The Society of Thoracic Radiology (STR). The meeting was organized by S. David Rockoff, MD, former editor of Investigative Radiology and at that time chairman of the Department of Radiology at George Washington University. His vision was of an organization welcoming all radiologists with an interest in cardiothoracic imaging. The intent of forming this society was to create a new organization for the growing number of thoracic imaging specialists, a forum for collegial exchange, a source of educational meetings and publications, and an authoritative international thoracic imaging body. In particular, junior members were encouraged and mentored to become active faculty and leaders of the society, in a way of perpetuating the goals of the society.
It was decided that if 75 radiologists expressed interest in joining the society, plans for its organization would proceed. By the next year, 117 charter members had signed on. Under Dr Rockoff's guiding hand, and the strong efforts of many members, the STR moved forward to legitimacy as a scientific society (Fig. 1). Table 1 highlights the objectives of the STR as set out in the constitution. Through the continued dedication and hard work of the organization's increasing membership, the society has largely achieved those goals (Table 1).
Fred Stitik, MD, the second president of the STR, was charged with planning the first scientific meeting of the society. The society was to meet in March 1984, in the yet-to-be-completed Grand Hyatt Hotel in Orlando, Florida: a hastily put together meeting in a questionable venue. With uncertainty that enough rooms would be completed, 150 to 200 radiologists attended. Despite the relatively short notice, the assembled group exhibited energy, insight, thoughtfulness, and an astounding amount of camaraderie. The meeting was an overwhelming success! Since then, 26 well-attended annual meetings have followed.
Numbers speak to the value of the society and the need for such an organization as envisioned by the founders. There are now more than 660 members. Although the majority of members are from North America, 84 others represent 28 countries. At the first meeting, 37 speakers presented lectures. Of the 9 submitted abstracts, all were accepted (Fig. 2). By 2007, for the 25th Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, there were 110 speakers, 111 abstracts submitted (with 21 accepted), and 66 posters. Of course, other numbers that went up were less well received but necessary. In the ensuing years, tuition rose from $0 to $340 for members, from $395 to $900 for non-members, and hotel rates increased from $99 to $229.
An important feature of the meetings has been the named lectures and seminars. The Gerard Scanlon Memorial Lecture is named for the late Director of Diagnostic Radiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr Scanlon was a founding member who unfortunately died before the first meeting was held (Fig. 3A). This yearly presentation focuses on an area of cardiopulmonary imaging of current interest. The Benjamin Felson Memorial Lecture was established in recognition of the tremendous contributions to thoracic imaging by the late Chairman of the Department of Radiology at the University of Cincinnati (Fig. 3B). The Jack Westcott Memorial Award is given for the best oral presentation by a resident and commemorates the late Dr Jack Westcott of St Raphael's Hospital (New Haven), a founding member and the 10th president of the STR (Fig. 3C).
Eric Milne, MD, conceived the idea of a journal dedicated to thoracic imaging, in the early 1980s. He envisioned it as a freestanding journal—sponsored by the STR—dedicated to cardiopulmonary issues. The first issue of the Journal of Thoracic Imaging (JTI), published in December 1985, consisted of 11 articles—written at the editor's request. The lead article, “Digital Imaging of the Chest” written by Christopher Merritt, MD, et al, foretold the role that digital imaging would play in our everyday lives as radiologists. The August 2009 issue, approximately 3 times the original size, includes a symposium on quantitative imaging of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, original articles, case reports, a pictorial essay, and abstracts from the Second World Congress of Thoracic Imaging, in Valencia. The JTI is now not only the official journal of the STR but also of the Japanese and Korean Societies of Thoracic Radiology.
Education is the primary mission of the STR. Besides its relationship with the JTI and its annual meetings, the STR has been an important co-sponsor and participant of the World Congress of Thoracic Imaging. The first congress was held in Florence in 2005, the second in Valencia in 2009. These joint meetings involving The Fleischner Society, The European Society of Thoracic Imaging, The Japanese Society of Thoracic Imaging, and The Korean Society of Thoracic Imaging, have been extremely successful in disseminating all that is important, new, and innovative regarding thoracic imaging. Each meeting attracted well over 1300 participants from every corner of the world.
The STR Research and Educational Foundation provides $8000 to $20,000 per year to residents, fellows, or junior faculty in support of their research. The first grant was in 1993 and the grants have started or bolstered the careers of many young thoracic radiologists. To date, 27 grants between $12,000 and $26,000 have been awarded.
The Education Committee has had major input into establishing the chest imaging protocols that have been incorporated into the guidelines published as the American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria. A subcommittee of this group has also developed a thoracic radiology curriculum defining topics that should be part of the 4-year radiology residency. The need for establishing a fellowship accreditation process involving the STR and the North American Society of Cardiovascular Imaging has been addressed, but a consensus has not been reached.
The STR has become a world leader in providing freely available on-line education resources. Since 2005, a portion of the educational content presented at each subsequent STR annual meeting has been captured and made enduring through streaming media on the STR website—for members and non-members alike (http://education.thoracicrad.org/online_edu.htm). There are currently 33 pulmonary lecture topics and 18 cardiac imaging topics available to anyone in the world with internet access. These on-line lectures are particularly valuable for resident training.
The Lifetime Achievement Awards Committee (Gold Medal Award) was established in 2006 to recognize members who have made special contributions to thoracic radiology and to the STR. Fittingly, the first award recipient was S. David Rockoff, MD, in 2007, for his leadership role in establishing the society and his perseverance in guiding the society through its growth in the early years. Subsequent awards went to Lawrence Goodman, MD (2008) and the late Gordon Gamsu, MB, BCh (2009).
In summary, the growth and impact of the STR has been extraordinary (Table 2). Beginning with a modest but committed group of more than 40 radiologists assembled in the basement of a Chicago hotel, the organization now numbers more than 660 members. Its 25th Anniversary Meeting in 2007 was attended by 430 individuals interested in continuing medical education in cardiothoracic imaging, learning the newest ground-breaking discoveries regarding this field, and rekindling friendships and collaborations that now span a quarter century (Fig. 4). The JTI, and the establishment of a website providing educational material and opportunities for members and the wider radiologic community, has also furthered the reach of thoracic imaging to a steadily increasing international audience. We have done well in meeting the objectives set out in our constitution 25 years ago (Table 1). We look forward to pursuing excellence and innovation in our future endeavors.
The future looks as bright as the past!