President’s Corner #33: Walking in the Footsteps of Our MR History

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Walking in the Footsteps of Our MR History

As we are entering April, and with just a month to go to the Annual Meeting, I don’t know about you, but I am getting so excited. Flight? Check! Hotel? Check! Excitement? Check to the power of infinity! Presentation ready? Not check (Phew, I am glad there is still a month to go 😊).

If you are getting ready to be in London, it is still hard to believe that in a month we will finally be together again with thousands of our colleagues in a convention centre. If you are joining us virtually, it will be our very first hybrid Annual Meeting, and we have been working hard to ensure everyone will be able to enjoy and participate in the meeting.

There is one special session I am writing today to tell you about (a “Presidential Session”, for lack of a better name! 😊), which I have been working together with a group of our ISMRM Junior Fellows. The session will focus on Walking in the Footsteps of our MR History, to explore the role Annual Meetings have played in our field.

The Annual Meetings of the ISMRM (and its predecessor Societies, the SMRM and SMRI) go all the way back to 1982, which was the year the 1st SMRM Annual Meeting took place in Boston, USA (August 16–18, 1982); 1983 was the year of the 1st SMRI Annual Meeting (Colorado Springs, USA). The Proceedings to all these historical meetings are now available online on the ISMRM website. These Proceedings provide an amazing footprint in the arc of our history as a Society, and the importance of our Annual Meetings as the avenue of choice for presenting new MR methods, tools, and applications of aspects of our field that have greatly impacted and transformed how MR is used today, and which have become ‘classic’ contributions. This is something the ISMRM should be very proud of, testimony to the role we have played helping MR leaders shape our field. It is indeed at our Annual Meetings where MR advances are most often first shown and/or conceived.

As it is often said, you must look at the past if you want to understand the future; by exploring the influential aspects of our past, it can help us envision what the future may look like and inspire us to dream high about it.

After a call for volunteers to ISMRM Junior Fellows to join me on this project, I was so pleased to have received an enthusiastic response from several of them. It was how I appointed an ad-hoc sub-committee of “Footprints of ISMRM in the MR path”, consisting of Stefano Mandija (Chair), Chao Ma (Deputy Chair), Ruiliang Bai, Li Feng, Francesco Giganti, Andrada Ianus, Hong-His Lee, Fei Li,  and Thomas Welton, who were all responsible for developing this proposal into a full project, as well as coordinating all the work (which was a lot of work, and for which I am greatly indebted). Thank you!

The project has involved broad consultation, including our Study Groups, ISMRM Medalists, past Presidents, Board of Trustees, ISMRM Historical Archives Committee, our journals’ Editors-in-Chief, among others. This work led to a shortlist of 100 ‘classic’ abstracts, which we will be presenting at the Presidential Session on Wednesday 11 May (9:15-11:15). To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Annual Meetings, this interactive session will feature a distinguished panel to discuss these groundbreaking works, their origins and impact. We hope to see you in London at the “Footprints of the ISMRM in the MR path” session to witness a moment in ISMRM history and to walk in the footsteps of some of our most classic and influential works. We have compiled some excellent stories, which we can’t wait to share with you in London. It should also be inspirational to our trainees, and how they may end up impacting the field themselves.

Many of the abstracts in our list were oral presentations, and the nominators still vividly remembered the excitement (and sometimes controversy!) they stirred up. Many others had been presented as posters. So next time you see a poster, or next time you present one, think that that work may indeed be, in 5 to 10 years’ time, a technique or application that will change our field. Any talk or poster could become one. You never know when those ‘classic’ abstracts will come up, but they do more often than you think – as I can tell you how hard it has been to narrow down to these 100 abstracts, with so many excellent (and influential!) abstracts we had to leave out. If you think that we have well over 100,000 abstracts having been presented at our Annual Meetings over the years, the task of selecting a shortlist of ‘classics’ is indeed daunting. This is by no means “the list” of classics, but just the start of this project – just to give you a flavour (or a trailer) of our history.

After working on this project, I feel a bit like archaeologists from old times who had just discovered a new site, and the more they searched, the more amazing and influential material they found! This is just the start of our journey to unearth the footprints of ISMRM in the MR path, and there will be a follow up project(s) to address some of the gaps and diversity aspects we identified on the list.

I can’t finish this blog without acknowledging the amazing task the group of Junior Fellows did to deliver this project. While I provided the seed for the idea and general guidance, this project was really developed and delivered by them. It has been the most enjoyable experience working with them on this – and I hope it has been for them as well (and that they didn’t regret volunteering to the project! 😊).

With this, I’d like to also give a call to other ISMRM Junior Fellows (and our junior members more broadly) to volunteer to other tasks. They are great opportunities to become ambassadors of our great Society, contribute to its activities, network with our members, grow their leadership skills, and the list goes on and on. Many who volunteered have played instrumental roles in ISMRM related activities over the years, and they can be an unstoppable engine of good.

As I said at the start of this blog, I can’t express how exciting it is that we are a month away from another Annual Meeting, and to think that some of the work we will witness there will likely become a ‘classic’ in the future – more abstracts that will be added to our list!

If you are presenting an abstract, I wish you all the best and hope that yours is one of them. If you are not presenting, put your detective skills to work and see if you can guess which abstract might be the next bit one. I can’t wait for London!

Fernando Calamante
2021-2022 ISMRM President

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