History of ISRRT

The International Society of Radiographers and Radiation Technologists was very much the product of a growing awareness almost 60 years ago, that people in countries with technology and skills owed it to their country and themselves to give something back to the rest of the world.    

The Beginnings

The first meeting of the Board took place in July 1959 in Munich at the same time as the 9th international Congress of Radiologists. There were 25 attendees. It was at this meeting that formalized minutes were begun and continued from this date for all the meetings post-1959.  The concept of the ISRRT was for an assembly of like-minded people drawing together the global radiographic community.  The purpose of the meeting was to share their concepts and ideas and to strive for higher education for all member societies.  In this process, they would assist those members organizations with less education advantage.  These high-level principles were and have remained the driving force of the ISSRT since its inception.

The second World meeting was held in Montreal again at the same time as the 10th World Congress of Radiologists. The minutes make it clear that from the outset funding and organisational structure were major distracters from the high purpose of the Society.  This was inevitable given the wide variety of member organisations, some with memberships from the outset in the thousands and others who were barely able to muster 100 

The fees were low. 5 cents per member and the aim was, through this fee to produce some form of reliable income.  Between 1959 when the International Secretariat of Radiographers and Radiological Technologists was formed and this Council meeting in Montreal, 1962 the total income was £536.10.  The recorded membership numbers in some of the societies for this meeting is similarly revealing.  Germany had 800 members, Japan had 5000, USA 9,000, UK 6,000, Mexico 100, Uruguay 200 and Canada 1,800.  During the first ten years of the Society there was an enduring debate between a fixed fee, or a sliding fee based on member numbers but, until the introduction of the mass associate membership fee introduced by the Australian Institute of Radiography in 2007, and then followed by the Canadian Society of Medical Imaging Technologists in 2010, the Society faced continuing financial stress.  Linked to this issue with this challenge was that of following up on the member societies who were ‘deep thinkers’ with respect to paying their annual dues.

The challenge facing the Society in respect to organisational structure was multifaceted. On one hand, a number of countries who wished to become members had more than one local society representing radiographers.  The rules of the ISRRT were unequivocal in stating that a country could only have one membership.  There was much debate around this issue.  The other structural challenge the Society faced in the early days was the shape and nature of the Council and the general meetings.  Miss Van Dijk was the first President and clearly a woman of strong personality, a characteristic shared by most of those involved.  This made for lively debate, not fully captured in the minutes or notes of the meetings. The sub-text is clear however.

As with any international society the problems of communication were to continue throughout the growth of the Society.  In the meeting of the Council in 1962, there was a proposal that the local language should be used wherever the meeting was held.  This was defeated and English became the accepted language of the Society for all meetings.  Periodically there has been a call for simultaneous translation but this has been very much resisted, most probably for financial reasons.

The relationship between the Society and other bodies has always been at the centre of the success of the ISRRT.  A number of the Council members over time have had strong working relationships with a variety of the suppliers of equipment and technology and those companies have shown extraordinary generosity and support.  This was most noticeable in the early days of the society and has, in no small measure, contributed to the continued survival particularly during the first twenty years.  

Dr Manuel Zariquiey, the Medical Director of Eastman Kodak proposed indirectly at the 1962 meeting putting on an eight-hour seminar training teaching of the Radiological Technique. He approached the ISRRT seeking support to provide this to those countries with “fewer educational advantages” .  In the course of this conversation, it is interesting to note that Dr Zariquiey was expressing concern that the American Society of X-ray Technicians was not a member.

At this stage there were only fifteen countries involved.  They were Holland, represented by Miss Van Dijk; South Africa, Miss Tompkins; Australia, Mr Callow, who also in this instance was representing New Zealand; Finland, Miss H Vani; Denmark, Mrs L Falk; Norway, Miss Astrid Oedland; Sweden, Miss G Filiph; Nigeria, Mrs Oldenburg; Israel, Mr Radgrozki; Mexico, Mr L Loewe, Switzerland, Miss T Bloechinger; United Kingdom, Mr Hutchinson; Uruguay, Mr Benquet and Canada which was unrepresented.  It was at this meeting that the French were enquiring about membership but would first have to form a local society.  Japan was also about to join, their local association, JART was clearly well organised and had significant numbers of members.  The associated Congress had 180 attendees 

The meeting considered the concept of a roving office for the Society, which was another recurrent theme in the early meetings. Council members were concerned about the costs attached to this, and while not unsupportive of the concept, were unconvinced about how successfully it might work.   

[1] Minutes, 1962 Council Minutes., 25 August 1962.  Box 1 ISRRT Archives. The John Rylands University Library, the University of Manchester.

Two of the enduring customs of the ISRRT were also established at this meeting and these the minutes clearly record.  There was a discussion about country flags which were to be displayed during the meeting.  This was also in the context of the representation by country with one member each.  The other custom was that of gifts which each country was to give the host country.

The major focus however, and one which has characterized the ISSRT and it’s contribution to world health, was that of education and setting standards.  It was an early focus that the regional committees should have the prime objective of encouraging a drive for higher education for their members and the sharing of standards across the ISRRT world.  The council was concerned that there was an absence of standards in the statutes of countries generally and in the statutes of the ISSRT in particular.  The meeting agreed that the standards of admission should remain broad educationally and that the founding member societies should be allowed six years to establish minimum standards for their members.  It was clearly the intent that such standards, as developed should be provided to the ISRRT as a basis for the setting of international standards for this profession. 

It was at the World Congress in Montreal in 1962 that Earnest Raymond Hutchinson (Hutch) was elected as the Secretary General and Treasurer of the ISRRT, a position he held until the Madrid Congress in 1973.

These formative years can be best summarised in Hutch’s own words, “two highlights emerged: ‘Official Relations’ with WHO as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and Charitable Status for both the ISRRT and its World Educational Trust.  There were world congresses, regional conferences, Seminars for Teachers and the ‘Role of the Radiographer’ meetings.  International radiographic relations grew in stature during these formative years.”  

In London 1963 the ISRRT held the first international meeting of Radiography with some 150 radiographers from Europe and Africa and 300 from the Society of Radiographers in Great Britain.  The second day of this conference held a round table discussion devoted to one subject – “The teaching of anatomy and physiology to student radiographers”.  This was seen as an important session considering the training problems of international radiography and the possibility of an international syllabus.

The key goal in a structural sense for the ISRRT in the early days was to achieve some stabilization of its programme.  The committee structure became important in the overall development of a professional organisation with attempts to establish a Finance committee, and a Public Relations and Editorial committee, and an Education Committee.

The development of these structures marks the transition from an ‘assembly of like minded people’ to an international society with a recognised structure. With this evolution there also came the inevitable disagreements between people, which are the mortar which binds the growth of an organization.  The minutes record intense discussion over voting rights, over nominations for positions, over the number of offices which would exist, over the definition of the executive officers and the others.  It was the normal evolution of a vibrant and living body in which a number of strong-minded personalities tried their best to bring about the organisation which they thought ought to represent the world wide profession.

 P7.”The International Impact of E R Hutchinson on Radiation Technology.” Delivered by Marion Frank OBE. ER Hutchinson Memorial Lecture; 10th International Society of Radiographers and Radiological Technologists World Congress, Singapore 1994

In 1965 the meeting was held in Italy and the education policies of the  ISRRT, and specifically the development of the ‘teachers cases’ or Teachers Seminars as they were to be called.  Miss L Falk chaired this committee and they set about the task of stabilising training programmes, surveying world radiographic training and reviewing the teachers seminars.  The ambition of this committee was to set up an International syllabus and much of the work on standards of practice that followed can be attributed to this meeting and the discussions which took place.

While the educationalists were getting on with its work the Rome meeting was the first official meeting of the Board of Management  since the ISRRT was formed and it had been from the meeting in Montreal that these statutes had been established, now they were to be converted from policy into practice.  The Council also considered the perpetual issue of the management of the finances.  Again the concept of a finance committee was tabled but the cost implications were beyond the resources of the ISSRT at this time for that to fully take shape.  The notes discuss how the statutes were discussed during the meeting in Council which was held Tuesday 21 Sept 1965 and then go on to record that there was a Papal Audience the following day at 3.30 pm Wed 22 September 1965.  It would be nice to reflect on whether the Statutes of the ISRRT received a blessing from His Holiness.

It was agreed that the Society should progress towards setting up a trust fund so as to standardize arrangements with respect donations and funding agreements.
By the time of the next meeting in Prague 1967, the Society has a more clearly defined structure.  Miss Van Dijk is recorded as the past president and Miss L Falk is President.  The Council Meeting records the ISRRT now has been admitted to the status of Official Relations with the World Health Organisation. WHO invited the Education Committee and the Secretary-General of the ISRRT to come to Geneva to meet and discuss the levels of education and training that should be established in a global sense.

There was clearly a further issue during the Congress in Italy with further problems over the accounting for the funds associated with the Congress held there.  There was some detailed discussion about this matter and how it was to be sorted out, but the historical evidence of the nature of this issue is vague and incomplete.  What it does highlight is the enduring risk for the ISRRT in the form in which it receives its funding and how closely this is linked to the financial health of its constituent members.  At no stage is that risk more apparent than during the running of the World Congress conferences and it would seem that this was the issue in Rome.

In October 1969 the ISRRT held the Congress in Japan with the Japanese Association playing host.  JART offered a comprehensive programme and the Council were able to tour the JART training organisation.  The Japanese were very focussed on the aims of the ISRRT with respect supporting neighbouring countries to develop standards of training and learning being developed by the education Committee.

The meeting also heard for the first time of the development of longitudinal planning for the ISRRT with the presentation of a four year statement of accounts.  This congress discussed the ongoing issues of the voting powers and the administration of proxy votes.  This was a reasonable problem given the travel problems which were constantly attendant on membership of an international society with meetings occurring in various host countries      

So in the first ten years of existence the ISRRT had achieved a great deal in that the organisation which was in place by 1969, was one which largely had the structure and shape of the present day ISRRT.
 

Consolidation
The World in 1969 had changed from that of ten years earlier.  “The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius, Let the Sunshine in” was the top song.  In like manner ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was the rated movie of the year and slightly wild freedom loving directions of the time as shown in the popular culture was now at the heart of the meetings of the ISRRT.  Photos show beards and long hair, floral shirts and women in long floral skirts and big hats.  Flowers are present and there is a contrast between in the appearance of members of the ISRRT – those from the Americas and Europe in what can best be described as a more ‘hippie’ style, while those from the Africa’s and Asia are more formal in attire.  

What does not change is the intent and focus of the work of the ISRRT.  These next twenty years are some of the most productive of the organisation in that the essential bedrock documents are compiled and brought into use.  The theme throughout this period was ‘patient care’.  There is a quote from the end of this period delivered during the 8th International Teachers Seminar, held in Victoria, BC in 1987. The event was co-sponsored by World Health and Terry West was Secretary General with Gordon Ryan the President. The statement was made that, “The needs of the patient should be of fundamental importance to any radiographer functioning in a radiation medicine environment.” 

This chapter then focuses on the extraordinarily rich output of material from the ISRRT, which has set the agenda for many of the constituent member organisations who make up the international body.  By this stage the ISRRT held ISRRT Bank accounts in UK, Australia and Canada and it was agreed that subscriptions must increase if the ISRRT was to deliver the educational expectations that the members and Council wanted.  After an intensive period of discussion subscriptions were were doubled in 1973, but as always the income was playing ‘catch-up’.
The period saw a focus on the Teaching Seminars and the following list show the range both geographically but more important, educationally.

1st seminar (teaching radiographic and radio therapeutic technique (London 1966)
2nd seminar (Copenhagen 1969)
3rd seminar (Integration of theoretical and practical training in radiography, radiotherapy etc.) (Lagos 1972)
4th seminar (Kuala Lumpur 1975)
5th seminar (radiation hazards) (Thunder Bay 1978)
6th seminar (training requirement for radiography in basic health care) (Lagos, 1980)
7th seminar (clinical education for teachers and learners) (Adelaide 1983)
8th seminar international seminar Exploration of the role of the radiographer in patient care at all levels (Victoria, B.C. 1987)
9th seminar ITEA Greece 1991, “Education update on a global basis” 
10th seminar Education needs of students: preparing for entry into today’s health care system (Nottingham 1996)
11th seminar Chiang Mai Thailand, 2000 handbook

The delivery of these seminars, and all the material associated with them is a very demanding effort from what is a voluntary charity, and consequently the quality and range of the output is more to be admired.  There were those members who looked for more to be done, for more to come from their ‘international body’, but when the output is measured against those key parameters of financing, of volunteer membership and of the challenges of multilingual communication in a non-internet world, a measure view must be that this output was extraordinary and achieved much more than should have been reasonably expected.  Not for the first time can we see that the ISRRT was ‘punching far above it’s weight’.

To support this work the ISRRT produced an extensive range of reports, standards, and guideline documents relating to radiography and radiotherapy teaching.  Not all were the work of the ISRRT as it is clear that member organisations shared willingly their work in various areas and made available for open use the material they had developed.  It is clear that often as a person became more involved personally in the ISRRT, attending meetings or seminars and then joining committees or holding elected office, they brought with them their work and made it freely available.     

Presidents 

  • Miss  Van Dijk
  • Mrs  Lisa Falk
  • Mr. J West
  • Mr. K Vaithilingam
  • Mr. G Ryan
  • Mr. E Akpan
  • Mr.  M Nakamura
  • Mrs. R van der Heide-Schoon
  • Mr. T Goh
  • Mr. R George
  • Mr.  Mike Ward
  • Mrs. Fozy Peer