3 to 4 billion people lack access to medical imaging and its potentially life-saving diagnostic insights, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). RAD-AID was founded in 2008 to answer this need. What began with a few radiology professionals has grown to include more than 10,000 volunteers from 100 countries, 75 university-based chapters, on-site programs in over 30 countries, and an annual conference on global health radiology.
vRad is proud to support RAD-AID through the First Read Initiative. We connected with Dan Mollura, MD, RAD-AID’s founder, president and chief executive officer, to learn more about how the organization helps people around the world.
You’ve achieved a lot in just 12 years. How did you get here?
RAD-AID is primarily a platform that channels and enables the skills, expertise and generosity of the radiology community to reach patients and hospitals in need. So, it's really the radiology community – including physicians, technologists, nurses, physicists, administrators, medical students and IT professionals – that has enabled the impact. RAD-AID is a platform that channels their energy and expertise to help those who need us.
What RAD-AID projects are you most excited about?
Well, if you ask me, I'm excited about all of them! I love every single project, and I really do mean that. But they're all uniquely different, and the reason why they're different is because of our method.
Our programs start off with a Radiology-Readiness Assessment. It emphasizes not what a hospital needs – because they often need everything – but instead what they already have. By leveraging what they have and understanding their goals, we can fill in gaps and help them get to those goals. That's why every single program turns out to be very different – to uniquely adapt an institution’s radiology capacity-building to the local context and community.
For example, RAD-AID Peru was just launched a few weeks ago. The program addresses women's health, right at the base of the Andes Mountains in Cusco. Now, this is a very different type of location and clinical context than, say, Chandigarh, where we put a mobile women's health program in the northern part of India. Imagine a rural community in the Andes Mountains versus a marginalized community in northern India. Both programs are women’s health. But the program in Peru is a small clinic called CerviCusco linked to a tertiary care center in Lima roughly 700 miles away, whereas the Chandigarh program is a mobile mammography truck with a relatively nearby hospital.
How important are partnerships to your organization?
They're fundamental. Partnerships bring together vital expertise. Radiology is a very diverse sector of healthcare. There are all sorts of entities that have very focal areas of expertise – vRad being a terrific example. You have hundreds of wonderful radiologists with great experience as part of a nationwide radiology enterprise. Also, as a leading teleradiology organization, vRad staff members have strong bonds to each other. They deliver care all over – across many, many regions. That experience is a vital perspective to have as a contribution to RAD-AID.
We also partner with manufacturers of radiology equipment, and, in the technology space, AI companies and PACS companies.
Since 2015 RAD-AID has been designated in ‘official relations’ with the World Health Organization, which makes us a formally recognized supporter of the United Nations system. This important relationship gives us a way to have dialogue with the international health policy institutions about access to radiology and the goals of disease control.
We also have partnerships through about 80 RAD-AID Chapters at accredited universities that train radiology professionals in the United States and Canada.
Tell us about your relationship with First Read Initiative and Josh Sokol.
Josh has an energetic spirit about wanting to support RAD-AID’s mission. He invited me to vRad’s annual CME conference in Las Vegas in 2017, where he introduced me to Shannon [Werb, vRad president and chief operating officer] and Ben [Strong, vRad chief medical officer]. They really wanted to integrate a charitable spirit into the daily work of the radiologists at vRad. We started coming up with ideas of just how vRad and RAD-AID could work together. That was the genesis of First Read Initiative – to enable vRad radiologists to donate the equivalent of the cost of the first read that they would do on their schedule.
After a year of diligent work on the part of Josh and the vRad team, First Read Initiative launched in early 2018. By November 2018 Josh was able to present a check for $72,000 to us at our RAD-AID Conference, held at the WHO building in D.C. The following year, Mary Huff presented another check for over $77,000. vRad’s support has been amazing.
What would you like people to do after reading this?
For vRad radiologists, please consider joining the First Read Initiative. You can sign up through the RadHQ portal.
Anyone who wants to learn more, volunteer or make a donation can visit the RAD-AID website.