Charles E. Ray Jr., MD, PhD, FSIR, will be installed as 2016–17 SIR president at Tuesday’s Annual Members Business Meeting. Dr. Ray is professor and chair of the department of radiology at the University of Illinois Hospital and College of Medicine. He completed his fellowship in vascular and interventional radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston after completing his residency in diagnostic radiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He earned his medical degree at Rush Medical College in Chicago.
Dr. Ray has been a member of SIR’s Executive Council since 2007, serving as membership councilor from 2007–2011, treasurer from 2011–2014 and secretary from 2014–2015. He has also served on the SIR Foundation Board of Directors and as features editor for JVIR. He has written or contributed to 300 published scientific works and delivered nearly 200 invited lectures. His clinical practice and interests include arterial and venous thrombolysis, dialysis management, hepatobiliary intervention, interventional oncology, portal hypertension and uterine fibroids. Dr. Ray spoke to SIR Today about his career and goals for his presidency.
How did you become interested in interventional radiology?
In our residency program, we didn’t have any IR fellows at that point in time. However, early in the program, we were exposed to what was then called “special procedures” and, right away, there were many things I liked about it. I liked the fact that there was an immediate impact on patient care, that we were actually treating something, rather than just diagnosing something. It was a combination of the technical aspect and the clinical aspect of it that elicited an early interest in IR for me.
Why did you become an SIR member?
I think the main reason I did it was for the educational opportunities. I was an in training member and, in those days, most of the educational offerings in interventional radiology were in the form of the society’s annual meeting. I also liked what the society represented, not just in terms of the education, but also the society’s advocacy efforts and the effects those efforts were having on economics and coding and billing and things like that. Those early efforts set the stage for the profound impact on patient care and the incredible progress our specialty has made over the years.
What motivated you to become more actively involved in the society?
From the very start, I believed in the mission of the society. I believe our society tends to be less provincial than some other societies that sometimes seem more worried about protecting their own turf. To me, SIR has always been more focused on doing what’s right for our patients and advancing the field, rather than just focusing on ourselves as individual practitioners.
What aspect of your profession gives you the most satisfaction?
Again, I think it’s the same thing that drew me to the field to begin with — the fact that we have such an enormous effect on patient care. When I began my career, nobody knew about interventional radiology — even referring physicians needed to be educated. But I don’t believe that there is a trainee coming out of any specialty program today who doesn’t understand what IR does for direct patient care. In fact, we now get consults all the time for things that we don’t actually do, which is a good thing. That tells us that when referring providers think about the possibilities of direct patient care for their patients, they think of us first.
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing IR today?
I think that there are several pressures on practicing interventionalists right now, but I would not look at them as challenges, but instead as opportunities. A lot of those pressures have to do with the economics of our profession, everything from coding to billing to representation on the RUC. But I think our efforts in those areas provide continuing opportunities for us to improve our presence and improve our worth. I don’t think it’s a question anymore that we bring value to patient care.
What are your goals for your forthcoming presidency?
When I look forward to the next year, I think we will continue to increase our educational offerings, including a continued focus on developing more web-based opportunities. Our training program, including the IR-DR pathway, is going through the maturation process, but things are headed in the right direction and moving very quickly. The society will continue to be a driving force in the successful evolution and implementation of the program. The strength of our society and our success as a specialty has created opportunities for advocacy and for political representation that continues to grow.
As president, I look forward to working with SIR leadership, the society’s amazing staff and dedicated volunteers to represent interventional radiologists, both in the academic sphere and in private practice, to further increase and enhance the presence and recognition of IR throughout our practice environments.