History of RASF

A thoughtful radiologist, Neil Messinger, MD, arrived at Baptist Hospital in August 1974—already an accomplished clinician with a resume of academic publications. He had completed his residency in 1967 and served a stint in the Air Force and as assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. While he enjoyed the intellectual give-and-take of academics, Messinger decided to leave the university setting and come to Miami to further develop the radiology group at Baptist Hospital.

The group of five was chaired by Oliver P. Winslow, MD, a member of the staff since the hospital opened. Like most in the specialty, the doctors were generalists—meaning they read films and scans of the whole body. Even though they were strongly rooted to traditional radiology, Winslow had a commitment to new technology. "He was always looking for what was new and what was different," Messinger remembered. The group was among the first in the country to embrace CT scanners and ultrasounds.

When Messinger became chairman of the radiologists in 1986, he built on Winslow's foundation. Messinger realized that radiology was at a crossroads. Many radiologists were practicing as generalists but on the horizon was a change in focus to subspecialties. In his eyes, the radiologists of the future would still be able to evaluate all kinds of films but also be trained intensively on one part of the body.

Dr. Messinger brought this philosophy to his leadership role. "I saw a great opportunity to change the direction of how radiology was practiced here," he said. "I recognized that our field was moving to subspecialization and made a decision to go forward with that."

It was a decision that pointed the RASF group to the field of interventional radiology and to Alexandria, Virginia, and the world of a spirited physician who was making waves of his own. Little did the parties know that their meeting and ultimate merger would transform the medical landscape. In 1986, a young radiologist from RASF, Jack Kaplan, MD, came to Alexandria at the behest of his department chairman, Neil Messinger, MD, to see the latest developments in interventional radiology by a pioneer in the field, Dr. Barry Katzen. During the trip, Kaplan asked Katzen if he knew of a senior interventionalist who would want to come to Miami, join the group, and increase its stake in interventional radiology. Katzen gave him a few names and then called him later, explaining that he might be interested. It was a chance to remold what it meant to be an interventional radiologist. "I had been thinking about how we practiced and managed disease," he said. "We kept to one area of the body, such as legs or kidneys, but this boundary was artificial. I looked at the cardiovascular system as a single entity—the pump and the pipes—and it made sense to treat it together." In specific language to Drs. Messinger and Kaplan, Katzen outlined plans for Miami Vascular Institute, a center for the comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of peripheral vascular disease. Renamed the Baptist Cardiac and Vascular Institute, the Institute now is actively involved in more than 50 federally approved clinical trials to find better ways of diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease with new devices and drugs. It is a pioneer in endovascular therapy and leads the way in interventional care.

The subspecialization of the group did not just include interventional radiology. RASF welcomed many specialties, including neuroradiology with Thomas Naidich and Ira Braun, ultrasound imaging with Ann Podrasky, and cardiac imaging with Warren Janowitz and Jack Ziffer. RASF continued to attract young, talented radiologists with academic interests and professional zeal, and that effort continues today. We are now the tenth largest group of private practice radiologists in the country, with over 65 members, five fellows, five physician assistants, and with more than 10 areas of subspecialty practice. We read over 700,000 radiological examinations each year, and we hope to grow even more, providing South Florida with unparalleled radiological expertise and interventional care.

Excerpted from Innovation & Discovery: The Story of the Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute