President’s Corner #26: Light at the end of the Tunnel

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Light at the end of the Tunnel

By the time you read this, you’ve submitted your ISMRM abstracts and vaccinations against the COVID-19 virus are well underway in many countries. Development of a vaccine normally takes many years and usually about a decade until it is widely available. This is an unparalleled triumph of science that should be welcomed with great enthusiasm, especially in light of the massive suffering the virus has inflicted on individuals and families as well as society at large. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Given this historic achievement and the potential vaccinations have to end the current lockdowns and restrictions as well as unnecessary suffering and deaths, it is disturbing and sometimes even maddening to see a substantial proportion of populations everywhere questioning whether or not to get the shot. How did this come about? Where does this distrust come from?

This observation has forced me to rethink what I do on daily basis. What is the value of my work and science? Although some people think science is just an opinion, nothing could be further from the truth, as all of you in the ISMRM know. Our efforts matter. What all of you do to advance the field of MR has the potential to improve patients’ lives every day! It is very important work. But it does seem that we can do a better job in explaining the relevance of our work to the outside world.

The 2018 ISMRM Strategic Plan identified improved communication and engagement with the public as a key objective for the subsequent five years. The public are key stakeholders in our work, and as such we have a responsibility to communicate the value of our science in a way that everyone can understand. To achieve this aim, I have decided to create an ISMRM ad-hoc committee on Public Engagement which will be tasked with delivering on this objective. Karla Miller has accepted to lead the committee, which is being founded on the premise that the most effective engagements will involve us actively seeking opportunities to speak with our fellow citizens and taking the time to understand their priorities and concerns. We will be looking for enthusiastic members to help define how the ISMRM can facilitate these aims. Should you wish to contribute, please let me know.

In more ways than one, there is now light at the end of the tunnel. Many of us have been working from home for most of the past year. This has been challenging to say the least. Juggling one’s own work obligations with having to be a part-time teacher has not been easy for those with children. Some have also suffered from COVID or have family members with the disease and know first-hand the condition can be very serious. Many of you have continued your work from home and despite all these difficulties managed to come up with new ideas and great science. This has resulted in over 5000 abstracts submitted for next year’s meeting and I’m already looking forward to seeing this work presented.

Will we be meeting in person? At this time, it is too early to make a final decision regarding the format of next year’s annual meeting. The Executive Committee together with the Program Chairs are continuously evaluating all options and a decision will be made early next year. Please rest assured that our foremost concern is your safety and wellbeing when making the decision. I will update you in the new year on our final decision.

What I personally miss most in these strange times is personal contact with my scientific friends and colleagues. The joy of running into someone at a workshop or the annual meeting and grabbing a cup of coffee or a drink together while discussing new ideas and projects simply cannot be replicated online. On the other hand, in light of everything that’s going on around us let’s take a moment and be thankful that we have the opportunity to contribute in such a meaningful way. Many members of our society are involved in COVID research and their work shows that MRI has an important role to play in both in the acute phase and long term follow up of the disease.

I wish you and your loved ones happy holidays and look forward to seeing you in person again soon!

Tim Leiner, M.D., Ph.D.
2020-2021 ISMRM President