2016 radiology award winners

This week the moment we'd all been waiting for finally happened! After months of waiting, the winners of the 2016 Minnies were finally announced by Aunt Minnie! The Minnies have been going strong for 16 years, and are one of the greatest ways to recognize the best and brightest in the radiology industry. This year's list on nominees was incredible, and it's amazing to see just how many men and women there are out there dedicated their lives towards bettering our industry and the healthcare world as a whole. 

We were thrilled a month or so ago to see two of our faculty member, Dr. Perry Pichkardt and Dr. Elliot Fishman, on the list of finalists for the 2016 Minnies, and we were even more thrilled this week to see them both on the winners list! Dr.'s Pickhardt and Fishman represent everything we love about the people in our industry. They're passionate about the work that we do and have dedicated so many years of their lives towards bringing about innovation and change in the world of radiology, particularly regarding CT. 

Aunt Minnie put together these incredible pieces that go a little more into depth about why each of them was selected as the winner in their respective categories. 

Most Influential Radiology Researcher

Winner: Dr. Perry Pickhardt, University of Wisconsin

It might be a bit of an overstatement to say that 2016 saw the fulfillment of a life's work in research for Dr. Perry Pickhardt (for one thing, he still has many years left in his career), but it's not far from the truth. This year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) included CT colonography among the tests it recommends -- a watershed event that will ultimately lead to Medicare reimbursement and more widespread use of imaging-based screening for colon cancer.

The USPSTF's action represents a validation for Pickhardt, who was the lead author on a landmark study published in 2003 that demonstrated the value of CT colonography (also known as virtual colonoscopy) as a colon screening tool. Since then, numerous attempts to gain a USPSTF recommendation fell short, despite the publication of a growing body of evidence -- much of it involving Pickhardt and his colleagues -- in favor of the test.

Pickhardt came to radiology through an early interest in physics. While taking a graduate school course in medical physics, he realized it was the images that piqued him the most. Following medical school at the University of Michigan, he entered radiology residency at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University in St. Louis.

The U.S. Navy had paid for Pickhardt's medical school, so instead of a fellowship, he started a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy as a military radiologist. His service took him from the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, just prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, in the early 2000s.

It was at Walter Reed that Pickhardt performed the research study screening veterans with CT that would ultimately be published in 2003, even though he was a junior radiologist at the time. "In the Navy, you can advance quickly," he noted.

Over the years, Pickhardt has examined CT colonography from a number of angles, estimating that he's published more than 100 papers on the topic, a number that rises close to 200 when research on extracolonic findings is included. But he pointed out that he's also actively researching other areas, such as volumetric texture analysis, liver disease, and low-dose CT protocols.

"It's not about the numbers; it's that each paper answers a question," he toldAuntMinnie.com. "I always feel like each paper solves little pieces of a puzzle, and that's what drives me."

Pickhardt currently has two main areas of research interest. First, he is trying to determine the factors that lead some polyps to develop into colorectal cancer, while the vast majority remain benign. More knowledge in this area could help make CT colonography more precise and help physicians better determine which patients should be sent on for invasive colonoscopy.

Second, he is studying opportunistic screening, or using the data from CT colonography studies to screen for other conditions, such as osteoporosis. That would make CT colonography even more cost-effective as a screening test, he believes.

While the USPSTF recommendation was welcome news, Pickhardt believes that there's still much work to be done before CT colonography becomes a routine screening test -- in particular, convincing primary care physicians to refer patients. If that doesn't happen, then all the research papers and clinical studies could be for nothing.

"Now I want to see [CT colonography] help the bottom line in terms of patients," Pickhardt said. "If it doesn't lead to that, then it's all just academics."

Runner-up: Dr. Sanjiv Gambhir, PhD, Stanford University

Best Radiology Mobile App

Winner: CTisus Critical Diagnostic Measurements in CT (iOS), Dr. Elliot Fishman

The third time was the charm for Dr. Elliot Fishman of Johns Hopkins University. After being named a finalist for Best Radiology Mobile App in 2014 and 2015 for other apps in the CTisus family, Fishman finally broke through in 2016 to win with CTisus Critical Diagnostic Measurements in CT.

CTisus Critical Diagnostic Measurements in CT

This year's Best Radiology Mobile App is based on the concept that in order to interpret CT exams you need to know both normal anatomy and the alterations in size and attenuation that indicate pathology. The app provides normal measurements for a range of anatomic structures, as well as critical size and Hounsfield unit thresholds for distinguishing benign lesions from potentially malignant or life-threatening pathology, according to Fishman. What's more, the app also helps users expand their knowledge base by facilitating access to the literature used to derive this information.

Fishman credited the idea for the app to Dr. Pamela Johnson, residency program director at Johns Hopkins and herself a 2016 Minnies winner for Most Effective Radiology Educator. As is the case with all CTisus apps, CTisus Critical Diagnostic Measurements in CT is free to use.

"I feel like it's our contribution to radiology," Fishman said. "We try to develop apps that people really find helpful."

More CTisus apps are also on the way. At next month's RSNA 2016 meeting in Chicago, Fishman and his team -- which includes Rachel Thomas, Sara Raminpour, Hannah Ahn, and Johnson -- will present a new app that focuses on pancreatic tumors.

"It's a team effort," Fishman said. "You have to have a good team or this doesn't happen."

An app targeted at adrenal tumors is also expected to be ready by the end of the year, Fishman said.

Notably, this is Fishman's fifth Minnie and third different Minnie category. He previously won Minnies for Most Effective Radiology Educator (2014, 2007, and 2001) and Most Influential Radiology Researcher (2004).

Runner-up: Kanal's MR Safety Implant Risk Assessment (iOS), Dr. Emanuel Kanal

We could not be more proud of our faculty, and we can't wait to see what the incredible work they continue to do in the future!