She’s Ready to Serve Patients, Profession in New Ways as ACR CEO

She’s Ready to Serve Patients, Profession in New Ways as ACR CEO

From secretary/treasurer of the Radiological Society of Louisiana to the same role with the American College of Radiology (ACR) (and many committee assignments in between), Dana Smetherman, MD, MPH, MBA, has been a consummate volunteer.

Dana Smetherman, MD, MPH, MBA, starts as the ACR's CEO in July.
Dana Smetherman, MD, MPH, MBA, starts as the ACR’s CEO in July.

Those many years were a warmup for her most important duty. Beginning in July, the ACR will become part of her everyday life when she starts as the organization’s CEO.

“I have had the benefit of working in the college as a volunteer in many different capacities,” said Dr. Smetherman, who’s also on the ACR Board of Chancellors. “I know a fair amount about the organization, which will be helpful. But I still have a lot to learn.”

The ACR announced Dr. Smetherman’s appointment in mid-January, giving her time to start the transition. She has been working more closely with present CEO William T. Thorwarth Jr., MD, who will retire June 30 after more than 10 years on the job.

It also allows her to complete commitments as chair of the department of radiology and associate medical director for medical specialties at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. Having worked for Ochsner since 1996, she didn’t anticipate leaving. It’s where she performed her residency after graduating from the Tulane School of Medicine.

“The CEO position was not particularly on my radar, but the opportunity became available and Dr. Thorwarth, much to his credit, announced his retirement date long in advance,” Dr. Smetherman said. “I was at a stage in my career where I thought this would be a wonderful chance to serve patients and our profession in a different way.”

She admits that moving from active practice to ACR administration will be an adjustment. A board-certified diagnostic radiologist specializing in breast imaging since 1996, Dr. Smetherman has enjoyed working with patients.

“I’m still very much a practicing physician now,” she said. “There are things that I will miss. Although I think about that now all the time when I’m practicing, I am also looking forward to this new chapter in my professional life.”

An ABR Connection

Dr. Smetherman is also familiar with the ABR’s mission, having served as an oral examiner and Angoff committee member. She appreciates the differences between the two organizations.

The ABR certifies physicians and physicists across four specialties, ensuring that those professionals have the knowledge and skills to safely treat patients. The ACR serves its more than 41,000 members through advocacy in matters of legislation and regulation, quality and safety activities, and innovation to advance the field. 

“The responsibility of providing the highest quality care to the patients in our communities is central to the ACR and its mission,” Dr. Smetherman said. “The ABR is more focused on the qualifications of the individual physician in that (patient care) journey.”

The ABR and ACR have more in common than acronyms that sometimes get confused. Their complementary roles in serving patients are clearly marked.

“There’s a tremendous amount of overlap in the Venn diagram of the roles the two organizations play,” she said. “The ACR, through programs like accreditation and the practice parameters and technical standards, helps to ensure that facilities are utilizing high-quality imaging equipment as safely as possible and that all personnel, including not only physicians but also technologists and other imaging professionals, are well qualified.”

ABR Board of Governors President Robert M. Barr, MD, is looking forward to working with Dr. Smetherman in her new role.

“She is an inspirational leader, a model physician, and an exceptional advocate for radiology,” Dr. Barr said. “The College is fortunate to have someone with her judgment, compassion, and energy to help lead the field in a time of monumental change.”

She’s Making History … Again

Dr. Smetherman is making history by becoming the first woman to serve as the ACR’s CEO. The organization celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.

This isn’t the first time she has broken the glass ceiling. Dr. Smetherman was the Radiological Society of Louisiana’s first female president and the initial woman physician on the Ochsner Health System Board of Directors. She is also the only female associate medical director at the system’s flagship hospital.

“I am very excited about the fact that we are going into our second hundred years and seeing this change,” she said. “I have said before in other roles that I didn’t necessarily go through my career with the thought that I was going to be a pioneer, but it worked out that way. The world is changing. It’s becoming a more inclusive place.”

Once she starts at the ACR, Dr. Smetherman knows that AI will play a prominent role in her duties. She calls it a “tremendous opportunity” to improve healthcare.

“I think radiology is at the forefront of the continued evolution of healthcare and medicine in general,” she said. “One example is the opportunity (to use AI) in population health. Radiologists see the patients when they are being screened, not just in breast cancer but other types of cancer and other diseases. There is data that is currently captured on the images we are interpreting, whether it’s atherosclerotic calcifications on mammograms or osteopenia on CT studies, that may be important to the patient’s overall health. Because of our long experience with technology and software like computer-assisted detection, radiologists also have the knowledge and expertise to help our colleagues in our specialties learn how to incorporate AI safely into their won practices.”

First things first, Dr. Smetherman and her husband are packing for Virginia, where her new job will be located. They spent time leading up to the ACR annual meeting looking at homes in the area.

Longtime New Orleans residents, the couple will happily face a few adjustments.

“I haven’t lived somewhere where it snows in a while,” she said. “That’s going to be a change. Still, my husband and I are looking at moving to a different part of the country as an adventure.”

It’s an adventure long in the making for a volunteer who has spent more than 20 years helping the ACR meet its mission. Dr. Smetherman is delighted about the chance to lead an organization that has meant so much to her.

“It’s a big transition and responsibility, but I could not be more excited for the opportunity and I’m very energized to take on this new role,” she said.

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