Published November 4, 2022
Gary J. Whitman
2022–2023 ARRS President
In our current topsy-turvy world, characterized by political divisiveness, challenges to reproductive rights, gun violence, global warming, and the Russia-Ukraine War, how can we improve our state of affairs? With so many problems, where do we begin? Should we just acquiesce and retreat to our comfortable cocoons?
As radiologists and as members of the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS), I believe that we have an obligation to repair and improve the world. Repairing the world is the ancient Jewish concept of tikkun olam—based on acts of kindness. While we may be unable to solve every problem, we can try to repair our world by working towards the betterment of our patients, our colleagues, and ourselves .
As we aim to improve our spheres of influence, our three main tools are kindness, improved communication, and flexibility. Kindness goes a long way in establishing human connections. Improved communication can solve a lot of problems, as many problems arise mainly from impaired communication. Flexibility is critical as we try to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Just think of all the changes in our lives and our world since January 10, 2020, when the World Health Organization announced that a disease outbreak in Wuhan, China was caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus . Furthermore, flexibility is critical as practice patterns and organizational structures change. John Wooden, the record-setting coach of the men’s basketball team at the University of California, Los Angeles, noted that “things work out best for those who make the best of the ways things turn out” .
Working towards the betterment of our patients reinforces the notion that we as radiologists are not film critics; rather, we are physicians actively engaged in clinical care, consulting with other health professionals and advocating for our patients. What we do each and every day—interpreting images and performing image-guided procedures—affects nearly all of our patients in nearly every area of medicine. In other words, our patients and many of our clinical colleagues would be lost without us. Just think of our role in patient care, with major roles in diagnosis, staging, screening, monitoring response to therapy, predicting prognosis, and risk assessment. In fact, what we as radiologists do every day has a major impact on what treatments are given and what surgeries are performed.
As we go about our daily work, we can always do a better job at doing our jobs, including making life better for our colleagues. Small acts of kindness can have major positive impacts. Even though we are all busy, taking a little time to engage with others can be helpful in establishing a collaborative milieu. As we talk with each other and establish dialogues, we will probably find that we have more in common that we might have thought. Furthermore, you probably do not want to be the person who reaches out to others ONLY when you need something.
As we live our lives, inside and outside of radiology, it is important that we take care of ourselves. In 2022, about half of all practicing radiologists endorsed symptoms of burnout—a state of chronic physical and mental exhaustion, increased negativity or cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy, due to an imbalance between occupational demands and available resources [4, 5]. Burnout may be exacerbated by radiologists’ isolation in an environment with low ambient lighting and pressure to read cases and finalize reports quickly .
We need to take care of ourselves, our colleagues, and our patients. If we are physically and mentally exhausted, we will be less effective as radiologists and as members of our communities and our families. I hope that you will join us for the 2023 ARRS Annual Meeting, April 16–20, in beautiful Honolulu, HI (with virtual and on-demand programing). During the Annual Meeting, we will feature the first-ever Radiology Wellness Summit, directed by Drs. Jonathan Kruskal, Lea Azour, and Jonathan Goldin. Our Summit will be a great program, and all of us have a lot to learn about workplace wellness from an individual, as well as an institutional perspective.
Even though our challenges are weighty, we can and should strive to repair and improve the world. With kindness, improved communication, and flexibility, we can make the world better for our patients, our colleagues, and ourselves. In fact, according to the Talmud and the Quran, whoever saves a single life is considered to have saved the whole world [6, 7]. We can and should incorporate tikkun olam into our busy, hectic, unpredictable lives. We can repair the world. Every (small) act helps. The time is now. As Rabbi Hillel said, “if not now, when?” .
- Fine L. The Pittsburgh Attack Inspired Calls for Tikkun Olam. What to Know About the Evolution of an Influential Jewish Idea. TIME Magazine website. time.com/5441818/pittsburgh-tikkun-olam-history. Published November 1, 2018. Accessed November 3, 2022
- CDC Museum COVID-19 Timeline. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. www.cdc.gov/museum/timeline/covid19.html. Updated August 16, 2022. Accessed November 3, 2022
- Impelman C. Make the Best of the Way Things Turn Out. The Wooden Effect website. www.thewoodeneffect.com/make-the-best-of-the-way-things-turn-out. Published October 23, 2019. Accessed November 3, 2022
- Baggett SM, Martin KL. Medscape Radiologist Lifestyle, Happiness, & Burnout Report 2022. Medscape website. www.medscape.com/slideshow/2022-lifestyle-radiologist-6014784. Published February 18, 2022. Accessed November 3, 2022
- Le RT, Sifrig B, Chesire D, Hernandez M, Kee-Sampson J, Matteo J, Meyer TE. Comparative analysis of radiology trainee burnout using the Maslach Burnout Inventory and Oldenburg Burnout Inventory. Acad Radiol 2022; 25:S1076-6332(22)00467-6
- Moskovitz D. Save One Life, Save the Entire World (Including Yourself). Religious Action Center website. rac.org/blog/save-one-life-save-entire-world-including-yourself. Published May 24, 2019. Accessed November 3, 2022
- Mawdudi SAA. Human Rights in Islam, Chapter 2: Basic Human Rights. Al-Islam website. www.al-islam.org/al-tawhid/vol-4-n-3/human-rights-islam-syed-abul-ala-mawdudi/chapter-2-basic-human-rights. Published May 24, 2019. Accessed November 3, 2022
- Kansky M. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” A discussion for developing a practice of self-care. Hillel International website. www.hillel.org/about/news-views/news-views—blog/news-and-views/2017/02/28/-if-i-am-not-for-myself-who-will-be-for-me-a-discussion-for-developing-a-practice-of-self-care. Published February 28, 2017. Accessed November 3, 2022
The opinions expressed in InPractice magazine are those of the author(s); they do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or position of the editors, reviewers, or publisher.