Interview: Prof. Boris Brkljačić, chair of the ESR Communication and External Affairs Committee


Talking to our own members is obviously important to the ESR, but communication with the public and other groups of radiologists is high on the agenda too. This is why the ESR has its own Communication and External Affairs Committee, which is responsible for relations with patient groups and international societies, as well as various other initiatives. We spoke to the committee chairperson, Prof. Boris Brkljačić, to find out a little about the committee’s functions and his own role.

ESR Office: What is your background within the ESR committee structure and what motivates you to be involved?
Boris Brkljačić: I have been involved in ESR activities for more than a decade. I have been the national representative of the Croatian Society of Radiology on two ESR committees and was involved in ESR activities while I was president of Croatian Society of Radiology. I was also a member first of the Finance Committee, and then of the Communication and External Affairs Committee (CEAC) during the chairmanship of Dr. Luigi Solbiati. After that I served from 2011 to 2014 as chairman of the ESR Finance and Internal Affairs Committee, and in March 2014 I was elected chairman of the Communication and External Affairs Committee. I have been involved in the organisation of several ECRs as a member of the programme planning committee and of two subcommittees, and I was the local organiser of one of the first ESOR courses in 2007, in Dubrovnik. I am also a member of the ESR working group on economics. Being involved with the ESR is very stimulating and motivating. It is a well organised, large and efficient professional society. The benefits for members are many, and the ESR’s activities are especially beneficial for countries that are smaller and have fewer resources, not only in the educational sense but also in the sense of professional activities and the harmonisation of the practice of radiology on the European level.

Prof. Boris Brkljačić, chair of the ESR Communication & External Affairs Committee

Prof. Boris Brkljačić, chair of the ESR Communication & External Affairs Committee

ESR: What is the main purpose of the Communication and External Affairs Committee and how does it operate?
BB: The Committee is responsible for liaison with other European and international societies, public relations initiatives of the society, coordinating activities related to the International Day of Radiology, activities related to the Patient Advisory Group in Medical Imaging, activities related to the International Summit at ECR, and it is also involved in the EU agenda. The committee consists of a chairman and four members at large (currently Prof. Philippe Grenier, Prof. Fermin Saez, Prof. Paul Sidhu and Prof. Mustafa Ozmen), as well as the president and 2nd vice-president of the ESR. The chairman of the European School of Radiology (ESOR) and the executive director of the ESR are ex officio members without voting rights. The members meet in person during the ECR, and otherwise communicate electronically.

ESR: What are the main issues currently on the committee’s agenda, and how are they being tackled?
BB: The Committee has been dealing with several international issues relating to ESR activities, and we have been working with international societies, most recently the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, who were very active participants in the International Day of Radiology (IDOR) initiative this year, which is the major issue on the committee’s agenda. Relations with patient groups are also very important for us.

The ESR Patient Advisory Group for Medical Imaging (PAGMI) is a new and unique initiative of the ESR and we had a very successful and well attended meeting during ECR 2014. The group is chaired by Nicola Bedlington, director of the European Patient’s Forum (EPF) and vice-chaired by me. It consists of representatives from several patient groups, including the EPF, the European Federation of Crohn’s and UC Association (EFCCA), the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform (EMSP), the European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA) and Europa Uomo (the European Prostate Cancer Coalition). It has been agreed to broaden the scope of this group and to invite further patient representatives to get involved. So far, the European Pelvic Pain Support Network (PPSN), the European Breast Cancer Coalition (EuropaDonna) and the International Diabetes Foundation’s Regional Office Europe (IDF-Europe) have expressed interest in becoming members of the group. PAGMI aims to improve communication between radiologists and patients; to raise awareness about medical imaging amongst patients; to improve patients’ knowledge about imaging procedures; to liase with patient groups on policy issues of common interest; and to ensure that a patient-centred, ‘human’ approach is embedded in the work of the ESR. In order to fulfil this task the group is collaborating on the International Day of Radiology, and the patient representatives are involved in the ECR, as well as in the ESR Audit & Standards Subcommittee, and they are collaborating on European affairs topics of mutual interest.

ESR: You will co-chair the International Summit at ECR 2015. Can you tell us a little about this meeting and what you hope will be achieved?
BB: The International Summit is an open forum for different international societies during the ECR, giving the opportunity for their representatives to all meet in person at the same place. This initiative enhances the relationships of these various societies with the ESR and helps to promote our society worldwide. It was established by the ESR in order to intensify the collaboration with a number of national radiological societies from outside Europe and to offer each of them the possibility to give a presentation on a topic chosen by them, as it would not be possible to offer a separate (scientific) presentation or session to each of the various societies with whom the ESR has formal relations. These presentations by the societies are basically the same as scientific sessions at the ECR, but participation in the meetings is by invitation only and applies only to those societies with whom the ESR has signed a memorandum of understanding. The meeting lasts two hours and is traditionally chaired by the ESR President and the Chairman of the ESR Communication and External Affairs Committee. The ESR coordinates the topic for the ESR International Summit with the RSNA in order to avoid overlaps with the RSNA International Trends Meeting.
The first International Summit took place at ECR 2013 on the topic of relations between radiology and nuclear medicine. The second meeting during ECR 2014 was about the current role of ultrasound in radiology. A paper on the organisation of clinical ultrasound around the world was prepared by Prof. Lorenzo Derchi and published in Insights into Imaging. The third ESR International Summit will take place at ECR 2015 and the topic will be ‘General radiologist vs subspecialist radiologist’. Eleven societies from all continents have been invited to take part. The topic was chosen as it is quite a relevant problem to find a proper balance between subspecialisation, which is needed in large departments and hospitals, and general radiology education. General radiologists still dominate throughout the world in smaller hospitals and practices, and we need to evaluate the situation, differences and solutions in different countries to see the trends, advantages and disadvantages of further specialisation and to acquaint ourselves with the experiences of other societies. The data collected will be summarised in a report available to members, and hopefully published in Insights into Imaging.

ESR: The International Day of Radiology falls under the remit of your committee. What happened this year to mark the day?
BB: The International Day of Radiology, which is celebrated on November 8, is the creation of the ESR in collaboration with the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). The main theme this year was brain imaging. All the major umbrella organisations (ISR, AOSR, CIR, RANZCR, RSSA, EFRS) were involved, as well as patient organisations (EPF, EFNA, SAFE – Stroke Alliance for Europe). Participating societies reached a record high with 125 societies from more than 60 countries taking part in IDoR 2014.

Two publications were created for IDoR 2014. First, a new volume of the Story of Radiology series (produced in cooperation with the International Society for the History of Radiology), was published. The second publication is a book created in cooperation with the European Society of Neuroradiology, titled Brainwatch. Detecting and diagnosing brain diseases with medical imaging, containing an introduction by Prof. Majda Thurnher, Prof. Turgut Tali, and Prof. Paul M. Parizel, with chapters by some of the most esteemed experts in neuro imaging. The ESR office interviewed many neuroradiology experts from European national radiology societies, and the resulting texts were handed over to those societies to use for promotional purposes.
The IDoR initiative has been a great success and is becoming one of our most important activities.

ESR: What new issues do you think the Communication and External Affairs Committee will be dealing with in the coming years?
BB: IDoR is one of the CEAC’s two major activities, and it has already proven to be an excellent and very successful initiative that enhances the visibility of radiology and the ESR worldwide, so this should be a permanent and ongoing activity. The topic of paediatric radiology has already been chosen for the International Day of Radiology 2015. A meeting about IDoR 2015 between the ESR, RSNA and ACR has been scheduled during the RSNA.
The PAGMI should be even more involved in IDoR, and we should continue to involve patient representatives in the ECR and our European affairs. Working together we can increase the visibility of radiology among patients in Europe.

The ESR should be represented and ESR activities presented at major radiological meetings elsewhere in the future. The initiative of the International Summit during the ECR, as a type of international forum for exchange in radiology practice and research could be expanded. Also the CEAC will carefully monitor international initiatives that may overlap with ESR aims and try to harmonise the ESR’s positions to those initiatives. The CEAC will be further involved in the creation of ESR policy regarding advertisement and possible endorsement of radiological events organised by the institutional ESR members.

ESR: How can ESR members learn more about the committee or contribute to its efforts?
BB: ESR members can follow the news about committee activities through the ESR website and can contact committee members directly or through the ESR office. ESR members are more than welcome to participate in committee activities during the ECR, related to ESR’s relation to patient groups within Patient Advisory Group in Medical Imaging initiative. The IDoR initiative is already thoroughly advertised by the ESR, while reports from the International Summitt meetings should be regularly published in Insights into Imaging, as was the case with the paper regarding the position of ultrasound within radiology.

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    One Response to : Interview: Prof. Boris Brkljačić, chair of the ESR Communication and External Affairs Committee

    1. Diana Gaitini says:

      Dear Boris, very interesting interviwe. May I get the link to the paper regarding the position of US in Radiology? As well I’d like to be involved in any activity related to this topic if there is something that I may contribute to.
      You’re doing an excelletn job! Congratulations,