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New President Charts Course In AI and Advocacy

The incoming President of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR), Dr Lance Lawler, has commenced his two-year term with commitments to highlight the role of radiologists in achieving positive patient outcomes and address the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the profession.

"There is considerable hype about AI, with stories on how it will spell the end of human radiologists, mainly promoted by the technology makers themselves,” Dr Lawler said. “These stories distract us from the real benefits this technology brings, which are better tools to aid in faster and more accurate diagnoses.

"Technological innovation has been the history of radiology since the discovery of xrays in 1895 and I believe AI will further improve the ability of radiologists to provide better care. From ultrasound to CT scanning and MRI, PET scanning and the whole digital revolution, radiologists have enthusiastically adopted and improved these breakthroughs to deliver better patient care.

"However, this comes with a caveat. New technology needs all stakeholders to actively work together to both develop and improve it and lay the ground rules for how it can be applied.

"Health regulators need to be reassured that patients will reap the benefits without being exposed to increased risk. This means radiologists need to be right in the middle of the debate. This is our challenge and we are looking forward to meeting it," Dr Lawler said.

Dr Lawler is a former CEO of the Pacific Radiology Group, the largest private medical organisation in New Zealand, with almost 50 branches in New Zealand and Australia. In early 2017, Pacific Radiology became one of 24 organisations worldwide involved in IBM's Watson Health collaborative to help develop cognitive computing tools in medical imaging.1

Dr Lawler is the first New Zealander since 1995 to serve as President of RANZCR, the peak bi-national body for overseeing and improving the standards of training and practice in clinical radiology and radiation oncology in Australia and New Zealand.

A consultant radiologist practising in both Australia and New Zealand, Dr Lawler brings more than 35 years’ training and professional expertise to his role as RANZCR President.

Dr Lawler said he is looking forward to advancing RANZCR’s priorities of policy and advocacy, upholding quality standards and the training of junior specialists.

“Radiologists have a hugely important role in modern healthcare. This requires good relationships with the other medical colleges, policy makers and funders, and I am looking forward to further developing these during my tenure,” he said.

Dr Lawler expects to devote much of his term as President overseeing the implementation of RANZCR’s recently-launched teleradiology standards and lobbying the Australian and New Zealand governments to improve access and affordability of healthcare for patients.

“I also look forward to promoting the work of radiation oncology, a critical component of cancer care. Radiation oncology is a safe and effective treatment for cancer, contributing to 40 per cent of cancer cures,” Dr Lawler said.

“RANZCR continues to help train world-class clinical radiologists and radiation oncologists and we are committed to having a positive and lasting impact on patient care and the professional life of our members.

“I am dedicated to ensuring all patients receive the same high-quality healthcare, regardless of where and when they need it. Therefore, the promotion of access to safe, appropriate, effective and quality services is a key priority for me and our College," he said. For more details, visit www.ranzcr.edu.au

1 IBM. "Watson Health medical imaging collaborative expands to 24 members; IBM debuts Watson Imaging Clinical Review, the first cognitive imaging offering," news release, 20 February 2017, https://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/51643.wss


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