March 4, 2021 -- If you closed your eyes, you could almost imagine yourself in Vienna. In a Wednesday evening opening ceremony, European Society of Radiology (ESR) President Prof. Dr. Michael Fuchsjäger raised the curtain on ECR 2021, extolling radiology's virtues to a virtual audience -- before singing opera in a closing duet.
Fuchsjäger's opening of ECR 2021 marked the second straight year the meeting has been held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, ESR made the decision to postpone the meeting for five months just a week before it was scheduled to start in mid-March; the July in-person show was subsequently replaced with a virtual congress.
The artistic theme for ECR 2021, "Embracing," is exemplified by the painting "the Kiss" by Gustav Klimt -- a theme that comes in a year in which there has been a lack of most significant contact between people. Still, Fuchsjäger said he chose the theme before the COVID-19 pandemic was on the horizon because it's an all-encompassing concept that represents how one should embrace the many opportunities in life.
Fuchsjäger explained how he embraced radiology in his career, as he never grew tired of experiencing the view of the human body from the inside that radiology affords. His embrace of radiology also brought him a dedicated committee of mentors, colleagues, and friends, who guided and supported him throughout his professional career.
He further noted how radiology professionals like radiologists and radiographers have embraced the concept of duty of care to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has brought significant change to radiology, but fortunately, medical imaging as a specialty is used to rapid change thanks to the accelerated cycle of technological development in the discipline.
"If this year has shown anything, it is that those working in radiology do not shy from their responsibilities," Fuchsjäger said. "We learn and we adapt, even when it means putting our own safety at risk."
Over the past year, the ESR has led a global effort to highlight the value of radiology. One example that Fuchsjäger pointed to is the Lancet Oncology Commission on Medical Imaging and Nuclear Medicine, which was founded in 2018 to examine issues related to access to diagnostics and treatment in oncology around the world. The commission is the subject of an ECR talk at 11:45 a.m. Central European Time on 4 March.
While patients should be the focus of any radiology professional's duty, individuals in the profession also should embrace self-improvement, Fuchsjäger believes. He noted the many educational accomplishments made by the ESR since the start of the pandemic over the past year, such as through online learning.
The society's ESR Connect online platform has delivered high-quality educational materials to tens of thousands of members since the pandemic began, and it has also hosted ECR 2020, special seminars on COVID-19, and meetings of subspeciality societies. Fuchsjäger also called out the shift to online learning of the European Board of Radiology, with over 500 candidates taking the European Diploma in Radiology online in the past year.
Fuchsjäger also urged radiology professionals to address self-care as a way to prevent burnout, noting the variety of online activities available at ECR 2021, such as classes in yoga, aikido, mindfulness, and qigong.
"The future of radiology looks extraordinary, and I truly believe that ECR 2021 is the best place to see this for yourselves," he said.
No opening ceremony would be complete without the awarding of honorary memberships and gold medals, and this was no exception at ECR 2021. Fuchsjäger honored the late Dr. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, PhD, of Stanford University in the U.S. with an honorary ESR membership and a video tribute that included an address by his widow Aruna Gambhir. Dr. Gambhir, who frequently attended ECR, died in July 2020.
Also receiving honorary memberships in ESR were Dr. James Borgstede of the U.S. and Dr. Pek-Lan Khong of Hong Kong. ESR members who received gold medals were Prof. Fiona Gilbert, of Cambridge, U.K.; Prof. Francesco Sardanelli from San Donato Milanese, Italy; and Prof. Paul Parizel, PhD, from Perth, Australia.
As with past opening ceremonies, the 2021 opener was suffused with classical music, with each honorary member and gold medalist serenaded with a selection of their choice. But in what he called "a small surprise" for ECR attendees, Fuchsjäger himself took to the stage to perform an operatic duet opposite Moldovan soprano Valentina Nafornita, backed by Viennese classical quintet the Philharmonic Five.
At least one future conference president, Dr. Geraldine McGinty of the U.S., took notice of Fuchsjäger's bravura performance.
"Gonna have to up my game for my #ACR2021 President's speech," McGinty noted in a tweet.