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RSNA History – Part 20

In the previous section, we highlighted the major changes in the organization of the RSNA which took place during the 1970s, in addition to discussing the first two RSNA annual meetings held at Chicago’s McCormick Palace.

In 1978, RSNA had conducted four successive annual meetings at McCormick Place. Yet, a number of RSNA members, especially those who were not living in Midwest, were starting to call for meetings in other cities in the United States. RSNA members were now more than 10,000, and the Society management decided to schedule several coming meetings outside Chicago. So Atlanta was to host 1979, Dallas was to host both 1980 and 1984 meetings, while 1981-1983 meeting were scheduled to take  place back again in Chicago, and the 1984 meeting was scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C.

Meszaros
1979 RSNA President William T.
Meszaros, M.D. (right), with
1979 RSNA Gold Medalist
Robert E. Wise, M.D.,
1974 RSNA President.

Atlanta was a suitable city to host the annual meeting, as the city had a number of recently opened hotels in addition to the new Georgia World Congress Center. George Schuyler, RSNA Director of Scientific Meetings, decided that the Congress Center was able to host all the technical exhibitors. He also noted that the Center was having enough meeting rooms for holding Refresher Courses and Scientific Sessions. He also arranged for the popular Sunday Film Interpretation Session to be carried out in another location in Atlanta, while Schuyler provided special bus service to transport attendees from the Congress Center to that building.

The RSNA 1979 was going to be an important meeting as it included the first Categorical Course on Radiation Therapy, which was to be carried out by Frank L. Hussey Jr., M.D., in addition to a scientific demonstration on the use of magnetic resonance in medicine, which was to be conducted by Paul C. Lauterbur, M.D. However, at the summer of 1979 and while the RSNA was managing the preparations for its Scientific Assembly in Atlanta, a massive tragedy in the history of RSNA took place.

The Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM) was holding its annual meeting in Atlanta in June. A high number of crimes were recorded during the time of event, as SNM officials mentioned that more than 15 incidents among meeting attendees were reported. The incidents included robbery or assault. However, the worst of all those accidents took place on the 28th of June, where Marc R. Tetalman, M.D., an RSNA member from Ohio, was at the SNM meeting. After Dr. Tetalman and his wife along with James Martin, a representative of the Eastman Kodak Company, finished dinner in a restaurant downtown, they were attacked on their way back by a an armed man who demanded their money and valuable belongings. Dr. Tetalman refused to give that man a watch that was given to him as a gift, so the thief used his weapon and killed Dr. Tetalman and heavely injured Martin while he was trying to protect him.

As a result to that horrible incident, RSNA management received a huge number of calls from members demanding that the forthcoming RSNA meeting, which was about to take place in five months, should be relocated to another city. However, RSNA President William T. Meszaros, M.D., and the Society’s Board of Directors realized that it was too late to move the meeting to another location.  In return, members and exhibitors started to call for the meeting to be cancelled in case of inability to change its location. To cope with the deteriorating issue, RSNA Board of Directors announced that it is going to hold the meeting in the city if the Board gets promises of tight security from the city authorities. Maynard Jackson, Atlanta Mayor and Lee Brown, Department of Public Safety Commissioner, had several meetings with RSNA leaders to solve this issue. RSNA Board of Directors was thinking deeply about cancelling the meeting due to insufficient security measures. However, Atlanta officials knew that such decision means a huge loss to their city and its economy. The officials promised RSNA leaders with significantly increased presence of police force members on the streets, surrounding the World Congress Center and next to the hotels booked to be used by RSNA meeting attendees. Mayor Jackson commented, Doctors, when you are here for your meeting in November, police officers will be coming out of your ears!”

In the last two months before the , September and October, Schuyler and other RSNA staff continued to visit Atlanta every now and then to make sure that the security measures were tightened in the city. RSNA even used services from private security companies to ensure that its attendees remain safe. However, even with these strict measures, a lot of RSNA members and other technical exhibitors expressed their anger about conducting the meeting in Atlanta. Eventually, the 65th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the RSNA took place in Atlanta in its scheduled time. Heavy police presence was noticed and not a single accident to an RSNA member was recorded. The Radiation Therapy Categorical Course presented by Dr. Hussey clearly succeeded. Meanwhile, the Scientific Exhibit on the use of magnetic resonance imaging as a new technique, presented by Dr. Lauterbur, was the first to highlight t using the recently developed technique in diagnosis instead of ionized radiation. Yet, RSNA Board of Directors was not going to host the Society’s meetings again in Atlanta.

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