A Society by Any Other Name

June 12, 2012
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What’s in a name? A heck of a lot, apparently. At its annual meeting in Miami Beach Monday, The Society of Nuclear Medicine changed its name. But before we get to the new moniker, consider this: The name change was considered for more than a year by its 18,000 members, and incoming president Dr. Frederic Fahey said the society’s leadership “engaged in a dialogue with the members” over the issue. Minutes before the vote, SNM staffers were still herding members into the vast conference hall so they would have a legal quorum for the referendum.

What’s in a name? A heck of a lot, apparently. At its annual meeting in Miami Beach Monday, The Society of Nuclear Medicine changed its name. But before we get to the new moniker, consider this: The name change was considered for more than a year by its 18,000 members, and incoming president Dr. Frederic Fahey said the society’s leadership “engaged in a dialogue with the members” over the issue. Minutes before the vote, SNM staffers were still herding members into the vast conference hall so they would have a legal quorum for the referendum.

In the end, 83 percent of voting members said they were in favor of the name change. And the new name? The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging. Why the tussle? Apparently, the technicians who administer the radiation-based imaging were not wild about the change. And then there were those who argued that, since nuclear medicine has included non-nuclear modalities for quite a while, why bother to change the name now?

Fahey, the incoming president who co-chaired a task force on the name change, said “changing our name is part of the natural progression of the organization to embrace molecular imaging. We will continue to engage in activities to promote both nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. As an organization, we now stand prepared to lead the way in translating novel imaging and therapeutic strategies for the new era of molecular and personalized medicine.” A spokesman for the group said the whole deal was “more like recognizing an evolution that has already taken place.”

I guess the leadership was confident in the vote outcome. Within minutes of the tally, they were handing out waterless tattoos (the kind you wish your kids would get!) with the new name.

This brave new world was accented — well, sort of — by the announcement of SNM’s Image of the Year, which may not rank with Time’s Person of the Year in momentousness, but which is a pretty big deal in the imaging world. The images considered are not beauty shots, but rather for exemplifying research that uses imaging techniques. Think of it as the talent, not the swimsuit, competition. The winner is an image that illustrates the effectiveness of Bi-213 DOTATOC for the peptide receptor alpha-therapy of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors that do not respond to beta therapy. It was chosen from more than 2,000 studies. The equivocation I alluded to earlier is due to the fact that they are before-and-after molecular images of nuclear medicine therapy. So the winner both honors the history and the future of the society. Just what the doctors ordered!

Image

But there are some parts of your identity that are indelible. The fact is that this is a field of medicine that is highly dependent on radiation for imaging and producing tracers that aid imaging. So SNM is highly sensitive to the issue of radiation dose optimization, making sure that there are no loose nukes. The society likes to say that they want to ensure “that we’re doing the right test with the right dose given to the right patient at the right time.”

So SNM has issued a radiation dose optimization statement. “We firmly believe that the radiation dose for all nuclear medicine and molecular imaging procedures should be optimized by ensuring that the patient receives the minimum radiation dose necessary to provide useful diagnostic information,” said Fahey, who is a nuclear medicine physicist by training. “At the same time, we need to explain and reinforce that when a procedure offers useful clinical information that will help physicians decide on a patient’s treatment, the benefits of the procedure far outweigh its very small potential risk.”

But radiation is still a dirty word in some circles, even those that don’t surround Chernobyl and Fukushima. The position statement recognizes that the use of low levels of radiation in nuclear medicine procedures carries some possible risk. Approximately 20 million patients in the United States will have these scans this year. And the association is hard to duck when “nuclear” is the middle (or second) word in the name of your organization.