Radiology has always played outside the limelight, its value underappreciated, its contribution not fully recognized. It is in character, therefore, that an organization dedicated to promoting patient welfare through the use of medical imaging – Radiologists Without Borders (RWB) – has received little attention.
Its name parallels the Nobel Prize-winning Doctors Without Borders, but its troupe is comprised of far fewer – not the tens of thousands of volunteers who promote the laudable efforts of Doctors Without Borders, but a modest few in South Central New York State whose mission is to develop radiological capabilities in underdeveloped nations.
Lately, RWB’s efforts have begun having an impact in places where radiology is sorely lacking, as it has helped set up an imaging department at the largest public hospital in Honduras, 1,500-bed Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa. It also has brought modern imaging technologies to those in need in Tanzania, Haiti and the Ukraine.
For the first time, according to Tariq Gill, RWB director and founder, Honduran women are being offered free mammography, thanks to RWB training of local physicians and a mammography unit donated by Hologic. A single-slice computed tomography (CT) scanner, courtesy of Margaretville Hospital in New York State, has begun operating. And plans are in place to install a 1.5T magnetic resonance (MR) scanner, donated by Alliance Imaging. Meanwhile, Gill is advising the National University of Honduras to starts its first radiology residency program.
The means are quaint, as in the planned transport of the MR scanner by Chiquita boat and the reading of radiographs against the backlighting of ceiling fluorescent lights. But they are much preferred to the total absence of capabilities that preceded them. Later this spring, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania will receive its first mammography machine. Its staff has already been trained in the United States on the equipment and reading its images, specifically at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, N.Y., where Gill serves as medical director of Lourdes Diagnostic Imaging.
A lack of infrastructure has hampered RWB efforts in Haiti. Yet, the group was able to set up and begin operating ultrasound, C-arm and portable X-ray machines, as well as train personnel in their operation at the main hospital in Port-au-Prince.
The goal is to help, through volunteer efforts and equipment donated by vendors and practitioners, educational materials such as the 200 textbooks given to Tanzanian radiology techs, and hands-on training of local staff. But not all that RWB provides is radiological. Some goes to the heart of medical imaging, starting from the ground up, such as 500 pairs of brand new shoes for Haitian children. The donation was orchestrated by RWB, an organization whose efforts project the best image of radiology, as well as help radiology produce images that help patients.